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Providence parents demand COVID-19 ‘transparency’ from their schools

Target 12

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A group of Providence parents with students in eleven city schools wants more details about how the school district plans to keep their children safe.

About 20 parents lined up in front of 111-year old Veazie Street Elementary, holding signs and inspiring several passing cars to honk their horns in apparent support.

The brick landmark on Douglas Avenue with windows checkered by electric fans and air conditioners offers an example of one of their main concerns: ventilation.

Jeremy Giller, a father of three children aged seven to 12, said the district has been “vague” when asked about how it will keep the air moving in its aging and newer buildings.

“We know it’s an airborne disease,” Giller said. “We are not hearing details about specific schools and classrooms. You need to know that space is safe and the only way to know that is to know the specific plans for each classroom.”

They’re also demanding details about the number of students per classroom, desk spacing and daily COVID-19 data, including the number of tests that will be given once school resumes.

Helena Dahn, with a 9-year old and a 13-year old in the school system, said she is frustrated she missed the deadline to choose remote learning.

But she claims the details available to help make her decision before the cut-off were sparse.

“I want them to stay home with me and do their online classes,” Dahn said. “I do not want them to come in-person. They’re not safe.”

The group also asked for more funding from the state for Providence schools “to meet all COVID-19 safety precautions.”

“Since the state took over … They should help fund what’s needed,” Giller said.

Jenna Karlin, who has a kindergartner and a third-grader, said while the district has gotten better in recent weeks about releasing key information, she believes there is still a lack of true transparency.

“I’m incredibly concerned they want us to believe they have a good plan,” Karlin said. “We can believe they have a good plan if they share the information.”

District spokesperson Laura Hart said she would look into the parents’ concerns, and added an air quality engineer was consulted to “come up with plans to bring our schools up to CDC and Health Department guidelines.”

Hart also referenced a video featuring Superintendent Harrison Peters who discusses ventilation in school buildings in the two-minute clip.

The parents said they hoped their demonstration will prompt changes, but they said if not, they will continue demanding details about their children’s schools until they’re satisfied their children are safe.

Send tips to Target 12 Investigator Walt Buteau at wbuteau@wpri.com and follow him on Twitter @wbuteau.

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