Answering Your Questions

Have you decided which scenario we'll use to start the school year?

Yes, Governor Raimondo and Commissioner Infante-Green announced the scenarios during their press conference on August 31. A lot of information was shared, so here is a summary of the announcement.

  • Based on our five metrics for reopening, every school district, except Providence and Central Falls, has the green light for full-in-person learning on the first day of school. Providence and Central Falls will start with partial in-person, and we will reassess in one month.
  • Partial in-person means, for example, that elementary and transition grades (i.e., 6th grade and 9th grade) re-enter in person, re-entry for vulnerable subpopulations is prioritized, and the remaining groups begin with distance learning (please consult with the districts for their specific plans);
  • We expect every other district to provide an in-person option to every student. But that doesn’t mean bringing everyone back into the building on the first day of school. While we expect all students to be learning on the first day of school, we’re giving districts one month from the first day of school to gradually return all students to the classroom.
  • All parents still have the choice between distance and in-person learning. If you’ve chosen distance learning for your child, that’s what they’ll do. If you’ve chosen in-person learning, your district will provide information about when your child will return to the classroom.
How did you determine that my community is safe enough for full in-person learning?

We measured our municipal data by studying case incidence, which is typically measured as a number of new cases per 100,000 residents. Based on the input of our advisory team of health experts and extensive data analysis, we’ve determined that cities and towns must have a weekly case incidence rate of fewer than 100 new cases per 100,000 people in order to fully reopen their schools for in-person learning. We will exclude cases in congregate care settings (i.e., nursing homes), which are not reflective of spread in the community.

As of August 31, Central Falls and Providence fell just shy of meeting this threshold.

What is the process for opting out of sending my child to school?

Families can expect to hear directly from their school district / school, and the opting out process will be handled at the local level. Consult your local school plan for more information.

What would it take to consider imposing restrictions on schools after they’ve opened?

In order to initially determine whether it’s safe for a school district, charter, or state-run school to open fully, we’re looking at the incidence of positive COVID cases in that municipality. This is the standard practice and the best source of relevant information. After schools reopen, we’ll be able to look at cases on a much more granular level – by school and even by each stable pod – so that we can be smart and targeted in managing positive cases. This approach will allow us to prevent or limit an outbreak while limiting the disruption in learning, just as we’ve done with child care. Click here for scenarios and action steps we will use once schools open.

How will testing work for students and staff?

We are creating a dedicated testing structure for K-12 students and staff at both public and private schools. Through this system, we’ll have the daily capacity to run 4,000 PCR or diagnostic tests with 48-hour results and 1,200 rapid tests with same-day results. Here’s how it will work.

  • If a student or staff member wakes up with symptoms, they’ll need to stay home and schedule a COVID test. You can do that by calling our dedicated K-12 testing hotline for an appointment at one of our K-12 swabbing sites. We’ll announce the number for that hotline when we get closer to the first day of school.
  • When you get to the testing site, we’re going to run two types of tests: a PCR test and a rapid test. The PCR or diagnostic test is more sensitive, but it takes a little longer to get your results. On the flip side, the rapid tests have helped us immediately identify thousands of positives since the start of this pandemic, but it’s a little less sensitive. This dual approach will give us both same-day results that our contact tracers can use to immediately take action and a more sensitive test to confirm the accuracy of those results.
  • While you wait for your results, you need to stay home. If your test is negative, you can return to school after your symptoms have improved, as long as you’re fever-free for 24 hours. If your test is positive, you’ll need to follow CDC guidance before coming back to school—you’ll need to be fever-free for 24 hours with improving symptoms, and it needs to be 10 days after symptoms first appeared. If you’re asymptomatic, you need to isolate for 10 days after your swab was performed.
  • We’re also preparing for the reality that students or staff will develop symptoms while in the school building. If anyone feels sick in school, they’ll immediately go to their school’s dedicated isolation room until they can leave the building. Once at home, the process is the same—you’ll call the hotline and schedule your swab. You’ll get your rapid test result the same day, and the PCR result within 48 hours.

As an additional precaution, we’re going to test certain asymptomatic populations through our K-12 hotline. If you’re a close contact of someone we know has COVID-19, you’ll also get tested at one of our K-12 swab sites.

How have school and district leaders prepared facilities to make sure the air quality is safe?

RIDE and RIDOH released Back to School RI: COVID-19 Facilities and Physical plant Guidance to Reopen Rhode Island’s Elementary and Secondary Schools on August 24, 2020. This guidance document provides in-depth information for school and district leaders on ventilation and HVAC, water and plumbing, cleaning and disinfecting, as well as compliance with state codes. Additionally, there will be a walkthrough of every school building by interagency teams of professionals prior to the start of school in order to provide school leaders with information on how their health and safety plans are being implemented in school buildings.

Will all students have to wear masks all day long?
Masks are required in the K-12 setting, even when students are in stable groups and socially distanced (greater than 6 feet apart). The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) understands and supports the exceptions to wearing masks for health considerations, as outlined in the CDC guidance. If a mask cannot be tolerated during vigorous exercise, additional physical distance is recommended (greater than 14 feet). Consult your local school plan for more information.
What are stable groups?

Stable groups are made up of the same people every day, and they stay together — in the classroom, in recess, and when eating. In some scenarios, those groups are no larger than 30 including teachers and aides; in other scenarios, the group size reduces to 15. Consult your local school plan for more information.

Whom should I contact if I have questions regarding my school/district’s reopening plan?

Each Local Educational Agency (LEA) was required to make its plan available to families by posting it on their website no later than July 31, 2020. Please contact your local district for more information and specifics about your school’s plan. Consult your local school plan for more information.

My child has a health condition. What are my options?

The health and safety of all of our students and teachers come first and foremost. Since attending school in person presents a higher risk, districts prioritize distance learning for students with health issues.

What is the objective of having a statewide school calendar?

Given the challenges posed by the ongoing pandemic, the statewide schedule emerged as part of a comprehensive set of planning tools RIDE intends to release. It allows families to plan for the school year now. It will enable teachers who teach in one district but live in another to balance work and family demands. It allows RIDE to act quickly to a COVID-19 resurgence by facilitating local or statewide moves to distance learning.

The calendar also allows RIDE to provide more statewide support, such as professional development opportunities that teachers from multiple districts can attend. A standard calendar also creates opportunities for innovation among districts, such as course offerings in one district being available to students from other districts and increased resource coordination.