NEARI calls on Governor to protect teachers after concern for staffing shortages

CRANSTON, R.I. (WLNE) – The National Education Association of Rhode Island is calling on the Governor to re-evaluate the state’s mandated long quarantines for teachers.

Under the October 1 version of the Outbreak Response Protocols for K-12, if an educator has a close contact in their household, they must quarantine throughout the case’s 10 day isolation period and for an additional 14 days. This means educators with a household close contacts are typically quarantined for at least 24 days.  Only if the educator develops symptoms and tests positive does their quarantine period decrease in length.

“NEARI is not quibbling with the amount of time necessary to quarantine,” Stephanie Mandeville, NEARI Communications Director said. “Whatever the Department of Health deems safe and necessary, we’re absolutely on board. However, the Governor characterized the 24 day quarantine as rare. We’re concerned it won’t become rare as we move into these winter months.”

Mandeville says schools are already seeing staffing shortages and there are very few, if any, substitutes to fill in.

“The governor touts low positive case numbers at schools, but that’s not the only reason schools will have to move to distance learning,” Mandeville said.

Mandeville says NEARI is calling on the Governor for three changes.

The first: NEARI wants the state to have a task force or plan in place for when schools have to shut down.

She also says teachers placed under the 24 day quarantine as a close contact have to use their own sick days to take off.

“The second thing we have asked the governor to do is to sign an executive order to give educators just a little bit of relief, so they don’t have to draw down on those mandated quarantines,” Mandeville said.

She says teachers have told NEARI they are exhausted and stretched thin.

NEARI’s third request is a mandate to delay teacher evaluations, giving them time to adjust to the changes.

“They’re juggling the students that are at home learning and the students who are in front of them learning,” Mandeville said. “Those learning models are not the same. They are creating a brand new method of educating their students.”

We reached out to the Governor’s Office for comment on the requests.
The Governor says while she realizes the long quarantines are a pain, they are rules that everyone, not just teachers, have to follow. She says she does not plan to issue an executive order and she hopes school districts will allow teachers to work virtually from home during the period they are in quarantine.
The Governor also responded about the request for delayed teacher evaluations saying she hopes the Department of Education can make appropriate modifications for evaluations.
Categories: Back to School, Coronavirus, Cranston, News, Rhode Island