Pawtucket, Cumberland vote to start year with distance learning in fall

School Updates

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo is set to make an announcement early next week about how schools will reopen in the state.

In the meantime, some school districts are taking matters into their own hands.

Cumberland and Pawtucket are the latest schools to decide themselves they will be doing mostly remote learning in the fall. Both school committees approved the decision during meetings Thursday night.

Pawtucket unanimously voted for all students to go virtual, with the exception of Pre-K, Kindergarten, and special populations. Cumberland voted a closer 4-3 to approve distance learning.

During the Cumberland School Committee meeting, parents expressed frustration with a lack of specifics in their plan. The committee admits details like “what measure would allow for a return to class” are not ironed out yet.

“I watched my son and some of his friends when they were doing virtual learning, they had great teachers who worked their you know whats off to do the best they could,” Scott Carptenter, Cumberland parent, said. “But you are not getting anywhere near the level of education virtually that you are in person.”

“I do not feel that any school honestly, is ready to start in person,” Vanessa Wagenheim, Cumberland parent, added.

After the vote, Cumberland senior class president started an online petition calling for schools to reopen.

“The in-person learning versus social distanced learning are two completely different options to educate the youth which is an issue we have in today’s society; but what comes with two completely different options comes the right choice,” the petition read. “I respect the idea of wanting to rather be ‘safe than sorry’ but safety can also be practiced in person.”

As of Friday morning, the two school districts join Warwick in beating the state’s decision on what the start of the upcoming school year will look like.

Districts like Coventry, Cranston, Johnston, Lincoln, and others have written to Raimondo in regard to their concerns over in-person learning. Warning that a decision coming as late as Monday does not give enough time to effectively plan.

During Thursday’s Facebook live about schools, state leaders say they are still weighing out all of their options. Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott says the National Guard will be walking through schools next week.

“To review their infrastructure, understand and put in place best practices and to share existing challenges and solutions,” she said.

And although it is not official, Providence and Central Falls have too many positive cases to make an in-person return based on current state guidelines. Currently, more than 6,500 students have already opted for the virtual academy.

The Rhode Island Department of Education released a statement regarding the votes, saying: “RIDE remains committed to basing all reopening decisions on the latest science and public health data. Our primary focus is to provide all the supports possible to superintendents as they prepare for all potential reopening scenarios. This includes ongoing communication with the superintendents in Pawtucket and Cumberland. We want to make sure families have safe educational options for their children, and we are concerned that shutting the door to any in-person instruction will take viable options away from families.”

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