PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The Providence Public Schools on Sunday released the results of coronavirus-related health and safety walkthroughs for each city school, showing a basic readiness in most buildings at the time of the inspections.
But the results also showed a wide variety of issues that school officials said were a work in progress.
The district’s spokesperson said since the walkthroughs about two weeks ago, work has been done to rectify any outstanding issues, including seemingly simple items, such as getting hand sanitizer in every classroom and more complicated issues like classroom layout.
Question No. 9 out of the 38 on the document asked if the layout of each classroom maximizes the distance between seats, with a half-dozen schools indicating that compliance was in progress.
District spokesperson Laura Hara said, “movers have helped schools arrange classrooms to maximize social distance,” with one exception.
“In elementary schools, students in stable groups do not have to be seated six feet apart, according to health guidance,” Hart wrote in an email. “Additionally, every school has enough face shields to give children an added layer of protection.”
Ventilation has also been raised as a major concern among parents and teachers since COVID-19 is an airborne disease, and Providence is home to several aging school buildings without central air.
Hart said the classrooms without HVAC systems have “a minimum of two working windows or has a portable HEPA filter installed.”
“One window serves as fresh air intake,” Hart said. “Another has a fan installed that blows air, ensuring a fresh air exchange.”
Leading up to the start of school, the R.I. Department of Education has conducted walkthroughs of public schools across the state, but has so far refused to release the results — despite multiple requests from Target 12.
Hart said Providence decided to release the city results — one day before school starts — for the sake of transparency.
“We didn’t want to wait until the next work day (Monday) to share this because parents want to know before the start of school,” Hart wrote in a text message.