Rhode Island public schools will move to distance learning for the remainder of the school year to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Gina Raimondo announced Thursday.
"It's not a decision that's been an easy one for me," Raimondo said at her daily State House news conference with Rhode Island Education Commissioner Angelica Infante-Green and Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, the director of the Rhode Island Department of Health.
The governor acknowledged that distance learning has been challenging for students, teachers and parents, but that everyone was doing a great job.
The state is among the best in the county and school districts are reporting that almost all students have the tools they need for distance learning, she said.
"Distance learning is not easy. I know that as a mother, I know that as governor," Raimondo said. "It's taking a toll on all of us."
There were 8 new deaths in Rhode Island on Thursday from COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, bringing the death toll to 189, according to Alexander-Scott. The total number of positive cases has reached 6,256, an increase of 412 from Wednesday.
During the news conference, Alexander-Scott said four of the eight new deaths were from nursing homes. She added that the health department will begin posting nursing home data on the COVID-19 Data Tracker.
The number of people who have been tested for COVID-19 is 44,419, with 38,163 negative tests, according to the state's data tracker.
Infante-Green said the governor did not reach her decision on remote learning lightly, but students have been telling her distance learning has been going better than expected.
For the class of 2020, moving to distance learning is "a bummer," the governor acknowledged, adding that she was sorry they would miss memorable experiences such as prom and graduation.
"We're going to do other stuff," she said as she put out a call for creative ideas to celebrate seniors.
Rhode Island now joins 39 other states moving to distance learning for the rest of the school year due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Ocean State has been taking part in distance learning since March 23.
More on the Coronavirus in Rhode Island
During Wednesday's news conference, Raimondo said the state is working on a plan to safely reopen public parks and state beaches amid the coronavirus pandemic.
"We'll be reopening them in a staged fashion. Slowly, with new restrictions incrementally leading up to an eventual complete reopening also with new restrictions," the governor said.
Although there is no set date for when public parks and state beaches might open, Raimondo said the state is hoping for sometime in May. Rhode Island's stay-at-home order is in effect until May 8.
Also Wednesday, Raimondo announced a new web tool called the "Rhode Island COVID-19 Self Checker" which aims to help people make decisions about seeking appropriate medical care.
The website is available in English, Spanish and Portuguese and is based on guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.