Rhode Island's public schools will reopen for full, in-person learning this fall without being required to provide large-scale distance learning plans, Gov. Daniel McKee said Wednesday.
"We're fully focused on safe, in-person learning this fall to get everyone back on track," the Democratic governor said at a news conference with state Education Commissioner Angelica Infante-Green and state Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott.
Schools are reopening because of the state's high coronavirus vaccination rates.
About 90% of the state's teachers and school staff are fully vaccinated, McKee said. In addition, about 60% of state residents age 16 to 18 and more than 40% of residents age 12 to 15 are fully vaccinated, he said.
Fully vaccinated faculty, staff and students won't be required to wear masks indoors, and school districts are being given leeway to come up with indoor distancing and masking policies for the unvaccinated, including students under the age of 12.
"We want schools to feel empowered to do what's best for their teachers, staff, students and families," he said.
School bus capacity limits are also being lifted, although masks will still be required regardless of vaccination status per federal guidelines, and windows will be kept open, Infante-Green said.
The state will also allow field trips again.
Districts will still be required to have a way to teach electronically for students with medical issues or in quarantine, she said.
Alexander-Scott urged parents of eligible children who have not yet been vaccinated to get them their shots, as the pandemic is not over and the highly contagious delta variant continues to pose a threat.
The state still has plans in place to handle new cases of the disease in schools through quarantining, testing, contact tracing and infection control.
"We need to remain vigilant," she said. "Our key is ensuring that everyone who is eligible gets vaccinated between now and the fall."