Pawtucket School Committee votes to keep students remote for rest of year
PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WLNE) – The Pawtucket School Committee voted unanimously to keep most students remote for the rest of the year. Committee member’s decision overruled the Superintendent, who proposed a phased-back in approach and went against the Rhode Island Department of Education.
Pawtucket remains one of the only schools in the state to have not returned back to the classroom since the start of the school year.
Parents like Rayna Tomasian are outraged by the decision, saying they feel like parents were ignored.
Tomasian has her hands full with three kids: a 3-year-old, a pre-kindergartener, and a first grader. Her first grader, Alayna, says she is not a fan of working from home. She says she misses her friends and is having a tough time getting work done.
“I hate it,” first grader Alayna said. “Four meetings and seven jobs and a math test! That’s hard for me.”
Her mom is also worried about her daughter in Pre-K with an IEP. She’s been one of the few able to go into the classroom, but has been doing virtual learning for five weeks now.
“This is the fundamental,” Tomasian said. “I feel like they’re going to have to repeat all of this year.”
Pawtucket mom Heather Vandale says she feels the same way. She has two kids, one also with an IEP, but because he’s in 10th grade, he’s been doing virtual learning all year.
“They try helping him as much as they can, but you have all these kids to one teacher,” Vandale said. “The other day he told me he wants to give up.”
The decision sparked criticism from the Department of Education who says 70% of parents said in a survey they would opt for in-person learning if given the option.
The Pawtucket Teachers Alliance released a statement defending the committee-member’s decision, saying the district has a high-quality distance learning program.
But, some parents say it’s not working for them and they feel ignored.
“They didn’t listen to parents,” Tomasian said. “If they listened to parents, they would’ve at least done a hybrid model.”
“If they’ve got all the ventilators fixed inside the schools, where is the dilemma? What is going on? I don’t understand,” Vandale said.
Committee-members also went against the Superintendent who presented a plan where Pre-K through 5th grade would return in February followed by 6th through 12th grade in March.
Superintendent Cheryl McWilliams released a statement saying she knows it was not an easy decision to make.