Schools see new COVID-19 cases, forcing some to delay in-person learning

CUMBERLAND, R.I. (WLNE) – As students head back to the classroom, some school districts are seeing new cases of COVID-19. The new cases have even delayed the start dates at some schools.

The Blackstone Valley Prep Public Charter System halted the start of in-person school after a staff member tested positive for the coronavirus. School officials confirm there are now two positive cases at the school and the Department of Health has ordered 12 other staff members to quarantine.

Those staff members include teachers, administrators and custodians.

The Chief Executive Officer of Blackstone Valley Charter, Jeremy Chiappetta, says with that many people out, it was impossible to staff any of the charter schools on Monday.

The six Blackstone Valley charter schools remained closed for the week while all students work virtually.

“We have been working tirelessly for reopening, for this moment, this week, to bring so many of our young people back for in-person instruction,” Jeremy Chiappetta said. “Then last week at the 11th hour, we learned that we had a staff member who unfortunately tested positive.”

Chiappetta says the staff member had been inside a school helping set up last week and was also in contact with other staff members at a memorial service outside the school. He says 14 people total have been ordered to stay home for 14 days.

“It’s heartbreaking because there are so many young people like kindergarteners joining a Zoom for all of us, for our community, really excited to meet their new friends and start school,” Chiappetta said. “To have that put off… is heartbreaking.”

The charter school had planned to bring back kindergarten through 4th grade and vulnerable populations from all grades. They had plans to slowly shuffle more students in mid-October.

However, now all students will remain working virtually. The district has plans to bring in vulnerable populations next week and phase the rest of the students in by mid-October.

“I ask for grace from our community,” Chiappetta said. “We are making really hard decisions that don’t have good answers. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry we couldn’t open this week.”

The news comes as other schools see new COVID-19 cases as well.

In North Scituate, a staff member tested positive at Ponaganset High School. The Superintendent sent an email to parents saying several staff members in close contact will be quarantined. The district still went on with plans to re-open on Monday stating that the rooms used by the staff member and close contacts were deep cleaned.

In Providence, a staff member at Carnevale Elementary School tested positive as well. According to the district, the Department of Health told them the school can remain open for in-person learning and that they will restrict access at the impacted work area.

Both the Principal and Assistant Principal at Carnevale are considered close contacts and will quarantine for two weeks. The district says a team of administrators will fill in for those roles in the meantime.

In Tiverton, one student at Tiverton Middle School was sent home on the first day of school after having a cough. The Tiverton Superintendent says the student was sent home as a precautionary measure and it was not a confirmed case of COVID-19.

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