R.I. teachers union not happy with condition of schools prior to first day

CRANSTON, R.I. (WLNE) — The National Education Association of Rhode Island says they are not pleased with the condition of most school buildings ahead of Monday’s first day of classes.

One of their main concerns is air flow, as many schools in the state do not have adequate air filtration systems.

Some districts are installing window fans, while others have ordered HEPA filters for their buildings to improve circulation. 

“We are following that closely to make sure they are in [by Monday],” said Larry Purtill, president of NEARI.

In Newport, Rogers High School is planning on utilizing outdoor space for classrooms, since it doesn’t have proper circulation.

“Being outside is the best place you can be,” said Purtill. “The problem with that is — what happens in bad weather?”

The outdoor classroom idea also raises safety concerns, like unwanted visitors disrupting school.

NEARI says staffing level are a problem right now too, particularly in terms of substitute teachers.

“We can’t get substitute teachers under normal circumstances,” said Purtill. “What happens now when you’ve got 10 faculty members quarantined, and 10 teacher’s assistants quarantined?”

The union wants all issues to be sorted out before anyone returns to the classroom.

“If we need to wait 3-4 days, a week, two weeks, go to distance learning for that time,” said Purtill. “The districts had to come up with plans for distance learning, in-school [learning], hybrid systems, so the plans are in place.”

While Monday is the first day of school, many districts have already said their students will begin the year remotely and will be phased back into classrooms over the next month.

(c) WLNE-TV // ABC 6  2020 

Categories: Back to School, Coronavirus, News, Rhode Island