“It’s like a blizzard is coming”: Charter and private schools grapple with taking a holiday pause

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – As teachers across the state continue to speak out asking the Governor to pause in-person learning from Thanksgiving to the New Year, some charter and private schools are already making that call.

The state’s private and charter schools operate independently, so they don’t have to follow state and local regulations.

Achievement First Schools confirmed they have decided to close their doors to in-person class and move to distance learning from Nov. 23 to Jan. 12.

Others like Blackstone Valley Prep are grappling with the decision of whether it’s time to hit the pause button.

“It’s like a blizzard is coming and we don’t know if tomorrow is going to be a snow day or not,” Jeremy Chiappetta, CEO of Blackstone Valley said. “We don’t know if we’re going to get 10 inches of snow or if the storm is going to totally pass us by. And that’s what we’ve been dealing with every single day since the start of the school year.”

One of the public charter school’s is located in Central Falls. The Mayor recently issued an executive order forcing all restaurants and bars to shut their doors for in-person dining as COVID-19 cases skyrocket in the City.

“We have actually shuttered that building for now and we’ve moved those scholars to other locations,” Chiappetta said.

Chiappetta says the decision to stay open in a limited model or move to full distance learning is a tough one. The Blackstone Valley Prep Board will vote on what to do this Friday. He says while he supports in-person learning to the fullest, staffing and quaratines have made it extremely difficult.

“We do not have school spread at Blackstone Valley Prep,” Chiappetta said. “We’ve had a ton of cases, but they’re community spread, not school spread.”

While schools like Blackstone Valley consider a holiday pause, teachers in public schools across the state are pushing the Governor to consider the same.

“We think it’s a good time to hit pause, get contact tracing under control, set up testing so when people return after Christmas everyone can be tested before they come back,” Larry Purtill, the President of NEARI said.

Purtill says the union has been in contact with the Governor who stands firm in her decision to keep kids in school. He says at the minimum, the state should let districts decide as many in high-risk communities battle relentless closures.

“If a school’s closing on Monday and Tuesday and parents don’t know until Sunday night and then they’re going to open on Wednesday and then close again on Friday, it makes it very difficult on parents,” Purtill said.

The Governor is set to speak Thursday.

Many private and charter schools that are still up in the air say they’re waiting to hear what she has to say before they make their final decision.

Categories: Coronavirus, News, Our Schools, Pawtucket, Providence, Rhode Island