Most Rhode Island school districts have been given the green light to reopen for in-person learning on Sept. 14 amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Gov. Gina Raimondo made the announcement during a Monday afternoon news conference saying every school district except Providence and Central Falls have met the following five metrics:
- Statewide readiness
- Municipal readiness
- Testing capacity
- Supply readiness
- Operational readiness
The metrics, the governor said, are related to the rate of hospitalizations and rate of virus spread.
"Some districts are going to proceed faster. Others will proceed with caution," Raimondo said.
For schools in Providence and Central Falls, in-person learning will be phased in with younger students starting first.
Every school in each district will be inspected before reopening and audits will be conducted throughout the year, the governor said.
Every school has been given a supply of personal protective equipment as well as masks, thermometers and hand sanitizer, Raimondo said. Schools will be responsible for cleaning protocols and enforcing the mask requirement and social distancing guidelines, she said.
Last week, Raimondo announced the launch of the Education Operations Center which will provide "real-time support" to public schools ahead of their reopening.
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The center will be staffed 24/7 by members of the Rhode Island National Guard, Rhode Island Department of Public Health, Rhode Island Department of Education, Rhode Island Department of Transportation, Rhode Island Public Transit Authority and Rhode Island Department of Emergency Management Agency.
The agencies will work together in handling coronavirus testing and contact tracing for schools and will be able to deploy teams to schools amid possible outbreaks, the governor said. The team will also provide logistical support to ensure strong in-person learning, Raimondo said.
There were two new deaths and 46 positive cases of the novel coronavirus reported Monday by the Rhode Island Department of Health. The number of fatalities now stands at 1,048 and the number of positive cases is 21,949, according to health officials.
Rhode Island's positive testing rate is 1.2% which one of the lowest the state has seen, Raimondo said.
Last week, 1,200 inspections were conducted at Rhode Island businesses where COVID-19 compliance was 96%, Raimondo said. Inspectors found that 15% of bars were crowded and 14% of bartenders were still not properly distanced from customers, the governor said. In addition, 17% of businesses were not screening their customers, Raimondo said.