PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) ─ The Pawtucket Teachers’ Alliance is calling upon Gov. Gina Raimondo to apologize for her remarks regarding the district’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, calling it a “reprehensible mischaracterization” of the city’s school department.
During her weekly coronavirus briefing on Wednesday, Raimondo expressed disappointment in the Pawtucket School Committee, which so far has had almost all of the city’s students learning remotely.
“It’s not OK that you’re not opening the schools in Pawtucket,” Raimondo said. “The children will suffer. Many of them will suffer life-long hardship if you don’t try a little harder, and get a little more creative, and work a little harder to open the schools for the children.”
“I’m devastated for those kids and I’m devastated for their parents and I think it’s not fair,” she continued. “Every other district has figured it out, and I’m asking you to try a little harder because the kids deserve it, and we’re here to help.”
Ronald Beaupre, president of the Pawtucket Teachers’ Alliance, called Raimondo’s remarks “reprehensible, disingenuous and blatantly false.”
“She has insulted the entire city,” Beaupre said. “She has insulted the residents of the city of Pawtucket and the professionals in the Pawtucket School Department who so desperately want our students back in the classroom when it is truly safe to do so.”
Beaupre said prior to the start of the school year, state walk-through teams uncovered deficiencies in 12 of the city’s 16 school buildings, making them unable to reopen under the parameters set by the governor.
“There are mitigation efforts happening, but it is going to take time,” Beaupre said. “It is going to take time to get all of them considering the whole country is looking to get this kind of equipment.”
He said the four school buildings that did pass are open and currently housing pre-K, kindergarten and special needs students.
He called it “disgusting” that Raimondo would want the city’s children to “re-enter the risky conditions in some of Pawtucket’s school buildings that do not meet the basic standards she and her administration set for a full return to in-person learning, while she would not even consider sending her own children to these environments.”
In response to Beaupre, Raimondo said Thursday that, while the city does have some children back in the classroom, she wants to see more.
“First grade not in school, second grade not in school, third grade not in school, fourth grade not in school … those are all little learners at home struggling because the adults aren’t working hard enough, being creative enough to give those kids a chance,” she said.
Pawtucket School Committee Chairman Jay Charbonneau didn’t comment directly on Raimondo’s remarks and instead chose to focus on the teachers and students.
“We couldn’t be more proud of our students and families for the engagement and efforts they are demonstrating on a daily basis,” he said.
Beaupre applauded the Pawtucket School Committee and other school leaders for keeping the city’s students and staff members’ safety at the forefront of all of their decision-making.