PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ While the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) will recommend all high schools limit the number of students in their buildings following Thanksgiving, Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green assured districts that it’s only a recommendation, not a mandate.
In a letter recently sent to superintendents, RIDE asked all high schools to move to the “limited in-person” plans they submitted over the summer starting Nov. 30, which would bring the buildings to no more than 25% capacity.
Infante-Green said the direction is not mandatory, and some school districts have already indicated they won’t shift to fully remote learning at the high school level.
“It’s a recommendation and it’ll look a little different in all districts,” she told 12 News Now at 4 anchor Kim Kalunian. (Watch the full interview in the video above.)
During her weekly coronavirus briefing Thursday, Gov. Gina Raimondo made it clear the option to shift primarily to remote learning at the high school level was requested by several superintendents.
“Some of them have come to us and said they’re having trouble containing their high schools,” Raimondo said. “So I don’t love it, and the ones that can stay open, I think it’s great, but the superintendents have said for a couple of weeks, ‘Give us a little breathing room. If you want to keep K-8 in school, we might need a little breathing room at the high schools.””
Infante-Green said the decision was made partially because high schoolers behave a little bit differently than younger students.
“We have seen that there was a party that impacted a couple of our districts and those are really high school students, so we wanted to make sure we were mitigating as the holidays were coming,” Infante-Green said.
The option for districts to shift to distance learning is set to coincide with the launch of a K-12 surveillance testing pilot program in Central Falls, Providence and Lincoln.
Infante-Green said through the program, parents, students and teachers will be able to get both rapid and traditional COVID-19 tests.
“This is just kind of like, what’s the next step for us, right? How do we continue to build our bank of data? What information will we get? And as we build this pilot, we’re thinking about the second semester and what it will look like in Rhode Island,” Infante-Green said.
“We also want people to feel safe when they go to school,” she continued. “We want adults and students to feel like they’re in an environment where they’re being looked after.”
Infante-Green said there are currently no plans for a statewide move to remote learning at the elementary and middle school levels.
Raimondo recently doubled down on her on her assertion that the coronavirus is not spreading throughout Rhode Island schools, stating that there is no evidence in Rhode Island or any other state that suggests rampant spread in schools.
She said she would re-evaluate if the data begins to suggest otherwise.
“If more data comes out in a week or a month that says I am wrong, then we will make a change,” she said.
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