RI Department of Education delays start of school year by two weeks

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – The Rhode Island Department of Education sent a letter out to district superintendents on Tuesday announcing the start school year will be delayed by two weeks.

Schools are now scheduled to begin for students on September 14. Governor Gina Raimondo had originally planned on school starting on August 31.

Teachers will return to school on September 9.

“These changes have created five additional planning days between August 31 and September 8 for your teams to use in ensuring you are ready for whichever scenario we use on the first day of school – from full in-person to full distance learning, as well as to continue to work with and gather input from your school communities,” Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green wrote in a letter to educators.

Audrey Lucas, press secretary for Governor Raimondo, sent a statement to ABC6 Tuesday afternoon saying that the Governor has heard from school leaders that they would benefit from a couple more weeks to “operationalize their plans for in-person learning.”

Governor Raimondo’s top priority is ensuring that every school has the time it needs to fully implement critical safety measures for staff and students. As we approach the start of the school year, we have heard from school leaders that they would benefit from a couple more weeks to operationalize their plans for in-person learning,” wrote Lucas.

Infante-Green also pushed back the date for when she will announce the reopening plan for each district from the week of August 16 to the week of August 31.

The last day of school will come on June 25, 2021, Infante-Green said.

The full updated school calendar can be found here.

Gov. Gina Raimondo and Infante-Green are both to expected to make more announcements about the school year at the governor’s 1:00 p.m. press conference on Wednesday.

Education leaders held a Zoom press conference Tuesday, saying the delay is helpful, but they want to use the time to plan solely for distance learning. They said any in-person learning is not possible at this time.

“We don’t have the adequate preparation, we don’t have the adequate materials, we don’t have the adequate resources to do it effectively,” said Frank Flynn, President of the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals (RIFTHP). “Even if you had all the money in the world, you couldn’t possibly go out now and purchase or hire all the buses you’d need.”

RIFTHP has partnered with the National Education Association of Rhode Island (NEARI) to demand a return to distance learning in September.

“There are a lot of questions out there about getting classrooms ready, about air quality, about supplies, about testing turnaround time, and the fact that the Feds have not come up with any money yet. School districts need thousands if not millions of dollars to make this work,” said Larry Purtill, President of NEARI.

The groups want distance learning to remain in place until the following criteria are met:
  1. Statewide COVID-19 R value that indicates the virus is under control and will stop spreading
  2. Rapid testing and response that is proven and widely accessible
  3. Successful air quality inspections of every classroom and workspace prior to school opening as required by law and regulation
  4. Masks required for all students, staff, and visitors
  5. Social distancing and desks spaced at least six feet apart
  6. True stable groups of 15 in alignment with the current Rhode Island social gathering requirements
  7. Health precautions such as daily temperature checks for students, staff, and visitors
  8. An adequate and safe means of transportation for all students entering and leaving our schools as required
Categories: Coronavirus, News, Regional News, Rhode Island