North Providence starts planning for school reopening

North Providence starts planning for school reopening

NORTH PROVIDENCE – As soon as the school year came to a close last week, officials began planning for the fall.

Gov. Gina Raimondo had announced plans to reopen all of the state’s schools on Aug. 31, prompting local school leaders to start outlining the return to in-person teaching after the COVID-19 pandemic closed schools in March.

Supt. Joseph Goho said the North Providence School Department has begun gathering input and planning to ensure a safe return to school in late August.

The state will require three plans over the next several weeks, to be submitted by July 17. The Rhode Island Department of Education will then give feedback to each district through the end of July.

Schools must plan for three outcomes: full distance learning for all, limited or partial in-person learning, and full in-person learning for all.

Planning for each scenario will need to incorporate some distance learning, whether it’s widespread use or only used by students who are home sick or in quarantine.

Local school districts must publicly post their plans on their school websites no later than July 31.

When schools do reopen in the fall, state leaders say things will be “fundamentally different.”

“Class sizes may be reduced, opportunities for students to socialize will be more limited, and new health measures and cleaning protocols will need to be implemented,” states RIDE’s guidance document on reopening.

Elementary and middle school students will be limited to consistent groups of 30, including staff, and must socially distance to the greatest extent possible. Each class will be expected to distance at least 14 feet from other classes.

The approach for high schools will be more varied, but stable groups are recommended whenever possible to help mitigate the spread of the virus. If stable groups are not possible, R.I. high schools must maintain six feet of physical distance between students and require the wearing of masks if maintaining a six-foot distance is not possible.

For all in-person reopening scenarios, the state is recommending that face coverings be used by students and staff. The state is also requiring that screening protocols be developed, adding that parents must screen students at home using a form or an app.

In a partial in-person scenario, if high schools can’t maintain stable groups, only about half of the school’s students can be present in school at any given time.

Lunch will likely be held in the classroom for elementary and middle school students, while high school lunch rooms will be limited to the maximum allowable statewide gathering size.

When possible, students will be socially distanced during lunch, and groups may be separated by barriers or partitions.

Field trips will not be allowed during the initial reopening field trips, and virtual trips are being encouraged instead. Band and chorus activities are recommended to be suspended or occur virtually.

Further information on fall athletics will be announced soon.

Goho said North Providence’s plans will be discussed in detail at tonight’s School Committee meeting, which will be held on Zoom.

The district also announced its intent to send a survey to receive input from each local family this week. Families will also receive a copy of next year’s statewide school calendar.

Goho said the district’s goal is to be “fully transparent with the public about health and safety expectations for school in the fall,” and to gather input from families to better steer the district in its planning.