PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — When a local teacher and parent started R.I. Parents/Educators For Safe Schools, she didn’t realize so many people would agree with her that students, teachers and staff shouldn’t return to school until it’s safer to do so.
But as of Tuesday evening, the Facebook group was 9,100 members strong.
“We’re just not at the point where we can say, ‘we know enough, this is safe, send our babies into these schools,'” founder Nicole Casey said.
The group is an offshoot of a nationwide movement called “Refuse to Return,” which aims to keep people off school campuses until no new COVID-19 cases are reported locally for at least 14 days.
Last month, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo and Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green announced a goal to have students back in the classroom come fall.
“The goal is schools reopening in person,” Raimondo said during the briefing. “Nearly every school, every kid, in person August 31.”
Stephanie Meuse, a co-founder of the local group, said she doesn’t agree with the governor. As a parent in the East Providence School District and a Central Falls teacher, she said she’s already made the decision not to teach this fall.
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The plan to return, according to Meuse, is not fair to teachers.
“I am feeling upset about watching my colleagues across the state feel burdened with these decisions,” she said. “They want to be with their kids but it’s just not safe.”
R.I. Parents/Educators For Safe Schools says they have a list of requests they want met before their children return to school.
“We want these plans to be signed off by [State Health Director] Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott,” Meuse added. “We want them to be reviewed and signed off by someone with an equity lens. We want there to be a phased reopening.”
For now, the group believes remote learning is the only option.
“With my daughter, if she goes to school and brings home COVID-19 and her grandma who lives with us gets it? What if she sees her teacher or friend get sick and pass away? That is traumatizing,” Casey said.
The group plans to hold a Rally for a Safe Return to School in RI on Monday, July 27, starting at the R.I. Department of Education headquarters in Providence and going down to City Hall.