PROVIDENCE (AP) — Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo said Wednesday her administration is still weighing how to reopen schools this fall, even as some teachers, administrators and parents are increasingly voicing concerns that the coronavirus is not under adequate control ahead of the state’s planned Aug. 31 start.
The Democratic governor acknowledged there are many unanswered questions to address before schools open, including transportation to special needs students. But she said she believes in-person classes are best for the mental and physical health of students.
School districts submitted to the state last week their plans for either providing full in-person, limited in-person or full remote learning.
Raimondo promised the state’s decision on schools would be guided by science, not politics. She also said she and state education officials will be providing updates throughout the week on school planning efforts going forward.
“Right now, everything is on the table,” Raimondo said. “It’s mid-July. We don’t know what life will be like Aug. 31.”
Parents and school officials have said they’re skeptical students can be safely taught in-person.
Robert Walsh, executive director of the National Education Association of Rhode Island, the state’s largest teachers’ union, has expressed concerns about ensuring social distancing in classrooms and on school buses.
“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 in a recent remote meeting about reopening schools.
Raimondo praised Rhode Islanders on Wednesday for mostly adhering to the state’s strict rules to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
But she had stern warnings for bars that allow for overcrowded conditions, people that host large parties, and those who continue to ignore face mask rules.
At one point during her weekly COVID-19 briefing, Raimondo said bluntly: “Wear your damn masks.”
The Democrat also said she’s considering restrictions on bars if state inspectors continue to see non-compliance this weekend.
And Raimondo noted the state’s contact-tracing efforts have linked recent virus cases to backyard parties with more than the 25 people allowed under the state regulations.
“Knock it off,” Raimondo said, repeating her now-familiar pandemic catchphrase.
State health officials reported one new coronavirus death on Wednesday, bringing the state’s death toll to 997.
The state Department of Health also reported 76 new cases and 67 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19.
DINING ON THE DIAMOND
The popular “Dining on the Diamond” program at Pawtucket’s McCoy Stadium is returning this weekend.
The program launched last month gives fans of the PawSox, Boston’s Triple-A affiliate, the chance to enjoy typical ballpark fare while sitting at one of 33 socially distanced tables placed on the ballfield.
The stadium is hosting two seatings each on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
This was supposed to be the PawSox final season at McCoy before relocating to Worcester, Massachusetts, for the 2021 season, but the 2020 season has been canceled.
Good news for children in Newport — the city’s playgrounds are reopening.
Crews will start reinstalling swing sets and removing barriers installed as part of the city’s COVID-19 response beginning Wednesday, The Newport Daily News reported.
The equipment is not sterilized and users are being reminded to take extra precautions, including maintaining proper social distancing, wearing a mask, and using hand sanitizer.