PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ While school districts across the country are making decisions on how to safely resume classes come fall, the countdown is on in Rhode Island with students expected to head back to school next month.
But the head of the Providence Teachers Union, Maribeth Calabro, tells Eyewitness News that even just one child contracting COVID-19 after returning to school is too many and the burden being placed on educators is “extremely heavy.”
Calabro said she, as well as dozens of teachers across the state, are concerned about reopening schools on Aug. 31.
“We have various degrees of anxiety from folks, we know kids want to get back to school, and we know teachers want to get back to school, but there are some grave concerns on teachers parts about safety,” Calabro said.
The state released guidance on how districts can reopen schools come fall, but she believes it goes beyond a new set of rules and restrictions.
“My school has almost 1,000 kids, that’s a lot of bodies,” she said. “Then masking is another concern, making sure kids keep the masks on, and then what about ventilation? Opening the doors and windows?”
Calabro’s concerns come on the heels of President Donald Trump and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ insistence that kids should return to school nationwide come fall.
“I know that certain people in power made assertions, demanding that all kids go back to school this year, they’ve never worked in a school. They don’t even understand what it requires,” Calabro said.
Calabro said teachers have already reached out to her about taking leave, and some have decided to leave the profession for good.
“We’ve had a lot of retirements this year,” she said. “I can’t say that those are coronavirus-specific, but I’ve had a lot of teachers reach out to me who have underlining health conditions who are looking to take a leave of absence because they are afraid to come back.”
Each school district has to come up with three separate plans for how school will resume by this Friday.