Rhode Island school reopenings spark controversy over questions safety

Mia Raspanti

Asst. News Editor

Photo by Vanessa Coelho


PROVIDENCE, R.I., -- The 2020-2021 school year is definitely going to be one for the books. COVID-19 has forced not only Americans, but people all over the world to acclimate to new ways of life. The world has changed in ways that nobody could have ever even imagined a year ago. Masks are the new norm, and social distancing has become everybody’s new best friend. The infiltration of these protective practices in our daily lives is important to prevent the risk of infection, but when it comes to education, is this a risk we should even be willing to take?


Schools should be a main area of concern during this time. Having large numbers of children and adults in closed quarters for eight hours a day can result in rapid spread of COVID-19, as recently seen in the spike in cases following the reopening of Georgia’s schools. However, this did not stop the majority of Rhode Island Schools from opening for this coming school year.


In response to state guidelines and concern from faculty and students, many schools have had to change their scheduling practices, in addition to how many students are allowed in the building at a time. Students must wear masks at all times and must distance themselves from other students and staff members throughout the day. Rhode Island Governor, Gina Raimondo, has supplied all schools with temperature taking equipment, cleaning equipment, and the responsibility to enforce students and staff to constantly wear masks.


Additionally, school districts like Providence and Central Falls which have already been significantly affected by the coronavirus, have decided to partially reopen. In Providence, pre-schoolers, kindergarteners and first graders as well as a small group of sixth and ninth grade students have all returned to school starting Sept. 14.


On Sept. 9, parents from 11 Providence public schools as well as Providence Teachers Union members protested the reopening claiming that this is a new level of responsibility for nearly everyone. They also demanded transparency from the public school system and asserted that having students return to school could cause an outbreak to occur due to dropping temperatures and people congregating in large groups. Furthermore, schools are responsible for sanitizing and cleaning all high-touch surfaces to additionally prevent the spread of infection.


In response to criticism from the general public, Providence Superintendent Harrison Peters asserted that no student would be given “a COVID pass” in life and that all students need to be educated whether that be virtually or online. He stated, “Everyone is going to have to give more. We’ve got to meet in the middle and we’ve got to work together and we need to be able to risk it all to make sure children have a chance”.


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