What You Need to Know

RIDOH and RIDE have released an Outbreak Response Playbook: Pre K – 12, providing district and school leaders with guidance on how to respond to various scenarios involving COVID-19 and their students, teachers, and staff.

RIDOH is also updating weekly the latest public health data by municipality, which will be a key indicator for reopening schools safely.

Answering Your Questions

What will school look like on August 31, the first day of school?

We have asked all our school districts, charters schools, and state-run schools to put together plans that will allow them to operate under one of four scenarios. These are:

  1. Full in-person for all, where schools resume 100 percent in-person operations, with some distance learning protocols in place;
  2. Partial in-person, where elementary and transition grades (i.e. 6th grade and 9th grade) re-enter in person, re-entry for vulnerable subpopulations is prioritized, and remaining groups begin with distance learning;
  3. Limited in-person, where most students resume distance learning from home and in-person is prioritized for some elementary or transition grades and vulnerable populations; and
  4. Full distance learning, where circumstances require schools to remain closed to in-person instruction and virtual instruction resumes until further notice.

Each plan will describe how school would happen under these scenarios, to be determined by the latest public health information. They will post their plans to their websites on July 31.

When will you decide if our students will go back to school in person?

We expect to make preliminary determinations on which scenario schools should plan for in early August, with final determinations in mid-August, closer to the statewide opening of schools on August 31. The latest public health information, backed by data, will be the driving factor in all decisions related to going back to school.

Will all schools automatically be using the same scenario?
Not necessarily. The latest public health information, backed by data, will be the driving factor in all decisions related to going back to school. It is possible that districts around the state may open under different scenarios based on the specific public health situation in their communities.
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) will be required to make its plan available to families and post 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.

How will you determine if my community is safe enough for full in-person learning?

We will be measuring 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 5, Central Falls, Pawtucket, and Providence do not meet this threshold. We will use the latest data available before making final decisions on reopening scenarios across the state in mid-August, along with the other four reopening metrics.

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.