Every public school in Rhode Island will receive a walkthrough by a team of experts to make sure they are safe and prepared to reopen for classes as scheduled next month, Gov. Gina Raimondo said Monday.
The Facilities Readiness Team will inspect every school to “assess their compliance with the Department of Health’s facilities guidelines, all prior to any student entering those facilities for the first time,” the Democratic governor said at a news conference.
The inspections will include a nationally certified air-quality expert.
The goal is still to reopen schools for teachers on Sept. 9 and for students on Sept. 14, although parents have the option to opt out of in-person learning. There has been pushback from teachers’ unions, which don’t think the state is ready for in-person learning.
“We owe it to this generation of children to do everything in our power to get them back in school,” Raimondo said. “It will not be easy, it will not be perfect, we will make mistakes.”
The state has also established an Education Operations Center that will operate much like an emergency operations center during a natural disaster, such as a hurricane.
It will be staffed by representatives of the National Guard, and several state agencies including the departments of Education, Health, and Transportation.
Its function will be to advise educators and react quickly to instances of the coronavirus in schools, including testing and contact tracing.
“Kids are going to get sick, and there are going to be outbreaks,” she said. “Everyone has to be patient and innovative during the first month of school.”
Rhode Island had 259 confirmed new cases of the coronavirus and five additional virus-related deaths over the past three days, the state Department of Health reported Monday.
There were 80 patients with coronavirus in the state’s hospitals as of Saturday, the most recent date for which information is available, down from 87 on Friday. Of those, 11 were in intensive care.
There have now been more than 21,300 confirmed cases and 1,035 deaths from the disease in the state.
The state does not provide updates on weekends.
The 7-day rolling average of daily new cases in Rhode Island dropped over the past two weeks, going from 126.29 per day on Aug. 9 to 72.57 new cases per day on Sunday, according to the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.
The 7-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Rhode Island declined over the past two weeks, going from 3.04% on Aug. 9 to 1.95% on Sunday, according to Johns Hopkins.
Revolutionary War ceremony canceled
An annual ceremony to honor the 1st Rhode Island Regiment, a unit with many Black soldiers that fought with distinction during the American Revolution, has been canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Newport County branch of the NAACP has honored the unit every year since 1967. This year’s ceremony was scheduled for next Sunday.
“It is with regret, but out of an abundance of caution for the health and safety of the general public, public officials and Newport County branch members and supporters that I am announcing the indefinite postponement of this year’s event that was scheduled for August 30, 2020,” chapter President Jimmy Winters said in a statement to The Newport Daily News.
The unit, also called the Black Regiment, in August 1778 won a decisive victory over the British at the Battle of Rhode Island. A monument to the unit is located in Patriots Park in Portsmouth.