Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo is confident in her plan to safely reopen the state’s schools in late August, despite doubts being expressed by teachers, administrators and parents that the coronavirus is not under adequate control.
"I am not in any way diminishing how hard it’s going to be, how much work is going to be required," the Democrat told WPRO radio on Tuesday. "I understand they’re nervous, you know, I understand that. But we're going to put our back into it because we owe it to our kids and our teachers in order to be able to get everyone back to school and do it safely."
Raimondo’s plan calls for reopening schools Aug. 31.
She said it’s important for the mental and physical health of children to be back in the classroom.
Raimondo has the support of Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, director of the Rhode Island Department of Health, who said in-school learning is the best option for children.
"We've been working countless hours to prepare for a safe return to school," Alexander-Scott said.
Robert Walsh, executive director of the National Education Association of Rhode Island, the state's largest teachers' union, doesn't see students returning to school by the end of August. He expressed concerns about ensuring social distancing in classrooms and on school buses.
More on the Coronavirus in Rhode Island
School districts across the state have already submitted their draft reopening plans to state education officials, but the final decision on whether to reopen may not be made until mid-August, according to details unveiled at the state Council on Elementary and Secondary Education meeting Tuesday.
Schools were told to plan for several scenarios including full in-person, limited in-person, and full-remote learning.
State Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green said schools will reopen "only if the science and the data say it's safe to do so."
Several teachers and parents who attended the remote meeting expressed their reservations about in-person learning.
"I am afraid for my health, for the health of my students and the families of my students," Providence public school teacher Elisheva Stark said.