Providence Teachers Union protests school reopening with mock classroom

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – Providence teachers took over the State House lawn Tuesday with a mock classroom demonstration to send a message to state leaders that it’s not safe to reopen schools.

The Providence Teachers Union set up 29 chairs just below the State House steps and participants sat while holding signs that displayed various concerns around the coronavirus pandemic and reopening schools.


“(Teachers) went to their school and measured out a classroom and they put the appropriate number of chairs. They didn’t even put desks,” said Maribeth Calabro, president of the Providence Teachers Union.

Calabro called this the union’s version of a press conference since she said they’ve been left out of the decision-making process.

“We’re not asking for money, we’re asking for safety,” Calabro said. “As safe as possible.”

The partial reopening plan for Providence puts 26 to 29 students in a classroom, Calabro said, and that’s not counting all of the teachers that will rotate through. She said art, music, library and physical education teachers will be visiting classrooms throughout the day, along with other specialists.

Another concern of the union, aside from overcrowding in classrooms, is cleanliness.

“If the expectation is that we’re gonna be in school, then the expectation should be that we have clean schools with good ventilation for our children to return to. That should just be it. It should be as safe as possible for our children to return.”

She said, when teachers returned for professional development last week, some noticed their classrooms were filthy. Many took to social media to post an inside look at the rooms.

“This is about facts. When you have teachers posting pictures the way that our teachers are posting pictures on the internet, on social media, about the conditions of the classrooms that they walked into when we’ve been out of school since March 13th, that speaks volumes,” Calabro said.

Teachers reported to Calabro that there were food wrappers on the floors, old papers, and some bathrooms in schools weren’t cleaned and didn’t have clear running water.

“If you’re telling us things are ready to go and everything’s spick and span, spit-shined and cleaned, then it should be that way.”

ABC6 reached out to Providence Public Schools for comment but didn’t hear back.

© WLNE-TV 2020

Categories: Coronavirus, News, Providence, Regional News, Rhode Island