PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — All six schools in the Blackstone Valley Prep public charter system remained closed on Monday after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19 and 12 others had to go into quarantine as a result.
Executive director Jeremy Chiappetta said the educator tested positive last week, and contact tracing conducted by the R.I. Department of Health identified 12 close contacts who were ordered into quarantine, in addition to the employee who tested positive.
The educator had been inside a school helping colleagues last week, and had also been in contact with other staff members at a memorial service outside of school, Chiappetta said.
Chiappetta said the 13 people who have to stay home include teachers, custodians and administrators, which made it impossible to properly staff any of the charter’s schools on Monday.
“It is a kick in the teeth,” Chiappetta told 12 News. “We have had so many people working so hard to have a safe reopening, and literally at the 11th hour to have this thrust upon us seems to be par for the course for 2020.”
The charter system had planned to bring back kindergarten through 4th grade students in person on Monday, in addition to vulnerable populations from all grades, with plans to reassess bringing more grades back in mid-October.
Because of the staff quarantines, all students are remote this week, and students from vulnerable populations will be able to return next week. Other students will be phased in, starting with kindergarten through 4th grade and then more students in October.
Blackstone Valley Prep has three elementary schools, one upper elementary school, a middle school and a high school in Cumberland, Central Falls and Lincoln. Students from those three communities and Pawtucket are served by the schools.
Central Falls is one of the municipalities that was deemed to have too high of a rate of coronavirus when Gov. Gina Raimondo’s administration decided if school could reopen, which meant schools in Central Falls could only open partially.
In addition to the COVID case, Blackstone Valley Prep may have another hurdle to in-person school after the bus drivers and monitors for its private bus contractor, Durham School Services, announced they could go on strike at a yet-to-be-determined date as negotiations have stalled with the company amid health concerns.
The UFCW Local 328 said Monday a potential strike was authorized by the union’s members pending the outcome of a negotiating session on Thursday, while the bus company maintains the safety of employee and passengers are top priority.