PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Come fall, students in Rhode Island will have been out of the classroom for nearly six months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gov. Gina Raimondo announced during her briefing on Wednesday she is pushing districts statewide to get a plan ready as she wants students back in the classroom starting Aug. 31.
The governor said while she believes it’s time to resume in-person schooling, she admitted it won’t be easy and will require a lot of work.
“I want to be crystal clear: we are all going to work our tails off this summer to make sure that when school opens in the fall, it is safe,” she said.
The R.I. Department of Education will issue minimum health and safety standards by next Friday, according to Raimondo, and each district is expected to submit their individual plans by July 17.
The governor said some of the arrangements will be left up to the districts but regardless, school will look and feel a lot different for everyone involved. She suggested that desks may be placed further apart, some degree of mask-wearing will be required, and fewer students will be able to ride on buses.
Parents reacted to the news in different ways, with many commenting on WPRI 12’s social media pages saying they would like to see an option for their kids to be able to continue to learn from home if they’re not comfortable heading back to class.
One mom who asked not to be identified had concerns about the precautions.
“You have kids from elementary school all the way up to high school on that bus. How are they going to contain them on the bus?” she asked.
“There’s 26 students in a class. How are you going to keep these students six feet apart from each other? How are you going to keep them from interacting? That’s the reason why they go to school,” she continued.
The questions from her and other parents led to more questions about the education she feels her children are being rushed back to.
“How are they going to get their lunch? If they’re bringing the lunches into the classroom, OK, well, there goes their lunch,” she added. “They’re not going to have recess. How are they going to have gym? How are they going to have art, music, library?”
Also on Wednesday, Raimondo and the R.I. Department of Education released a statewide school calendar that will be followed by every district.
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Students will have a week off in December, February and April, and snow days, at least in the traditional sense, will be a thing of the past.
Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green said if the weather isn’t safe for travel, students will engage in distance learning from home.
“I know there might be some disappointed children in the room, but the snow days the way we know them are gone,” Infante-Green said during Wednesday’s briefing, adding that the decision to close schools will still be made at the district level.
Raimondo also announced Wednesday that $42 million from the federal CARES Act will be set aside to help pull this off.