PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Thousands of Rhode Island students returned to the classroom Monday for the first time since March, when the coronavirus pandemic upended the rest of last school year.
Gov. Gina Raimondo spent the morning welcoming students in North Providence back to school and said overall, everything went smoothly and the kids are excited to be back.
“They want to be here, the parents are saying ‘thank you,'” she said. “You have the butterflies a little extra this year, but it’s really good.”
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Raimondo has been bullish since the beginning on getting students back to school in person, though she’s faced pushback from several districts.
Raimondo said she dosen’t have a problem with additional inspections.
“If it makes them feel safer, then I say let’s do it,” she said.
The state conducted dozens of walkthroughs of school buildings across the state, but isn’t releasing the findings.
Raimondo contends that it’s not the responsibility of the R.I. Department of Education to do so, and said she can’t force districts to make them public.
“It’s the district’s information about their schools, but I think they probably should,” Raimondo said of making the findings public. “Parents want to know and information is power. Transparency is good.”
Not all students returned to the classroom Monday. Parents were given the option to have their child learn from home, whether that be virtually or via home schooling.
Students in three districts didn’t have a choice, though. Warwick, Pawtucket and Cumberland opted to begin their school years remotely.
Raimondo has been sharply critical of Warwick’s decision before, and said Cumberland and Pawtucket are no different.
“I’m disappointed in Pawtucket and Cumberland,” she said. “I don’t see any reason why they can’t be in school. The kids in Cumberland and Pawtucket are going to be worse off for not being in school and I don’t think it’s fair.”
Raimondo hopes that by Oct. 13, all children have had the opportunity to return to the classroom. She asks families to have confidence in the state’s plans and protocols.
“Let us do the worrying,” she said. “We’ll worry about the contact-tracing and the testing and the cleaning and you just help your kids and get your family through it a day at a time.”