Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo on Thursday shared her vision of what school might be like in the fall, saying that while she hoped students would be back in classrooms, measures would be in place to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
"The plan is, if everything goes according to the way it is now, you'll be able to go back to school," Raimondo said during a special news conference focused on the lives of children during the pandemic.
"We will have to be washing our hands a lot more," she said. "We might have to make changes to the way we have lunch and breakfast at school."
Raimondo added there may have to be fewer students per classroom and that students would have to spread out more. Teachers and students may have to wear masks.
"It's not going to be normal, it's not going to be the same old school," she said.
Students "have to be flexible," she added. "There's going to be changes and I'm not really sure what that means. October may look different than September."
The governor announced last week that public schools would move to distance learning for the remainder of the school year to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Raimondo said Thursday she had asked all presidents of colleges in Rhode Island to submit a plan for how they can open up safely, saying she was hopeful students could return to campus in the fall.
She said college life would include stepped-up cleaning procedures and "more mask-wearing." She added classes would likely not be held in large lecture halls.
Meanwhile, the state on Thursday reported 15 additional coronavirus deaths, bringing the total death toll to 266. Health officials also announced 374 new cases, bringing the total number of cases to 8,621.
The governor said Wednesday that she remained hopeful she would be able to lift Rhode Island's stay-at-home order on May 9 if the number of coronavirus cases continues to stay flat or even begin to decline.
If everybody continues to obey the stay-at-home order between now and May 8, and if the numbers continue to trend the way they have for the past week, she said her goal is still to allow the state to enter the first phase of the reopening on May 9.
Raimondo has urged residents not to ease up now, despite the fact that the weather may be improving in the coming days.
The first phase of the reopening will still limit gatherings to 10 people or fewer, expanding to 15 or fewer and eventually even more, but Raimondo said she doesn't imagine large gatherings like Fourth of July parades, music festivals or big weddings will be possible in Rhode Island this summer.