WOOD RIVER JCT. — In what has become a daily routine during the coronavirus crisis, administrators in the Chariho school district and the three Chariho towns await Gov. Gina Raimondo’s briefings and then implement her newly-mandated measures.
The Monday morning news conference produced two new directives: gatherings of 25 people or more are now prohibited and restaurants can no longer serve food and drinks on their premises, although deliveries and takeout orders can continue.
Chariho Interim Superintendent of Schools Jane Daly said she wasn’t sure whether the School Committee meeting tonight would still take place.
“That’s still planned, however we’re looking into, in terms of the Open Meetings Act, can you do that virtually,” she said. “We’re looking into that right now.”
At a news conference late Monday afternoon, Gov. Raimondo announced that she was suspending a provision of the Open Meetings Act that prohibits legislative bodies from meeting remotely. The governor signed an executive order that will allow towns and other bodies, such as school committees, to do business by video conference or telephone, however, they will be required to make provisions for members of the public to view or listen to the meetings.
With all Chariho schools closed until further notice, the district will begin offering “grab-and-go” breakfasts and lunches to Chariho students on Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the front entrance to the high school. Students must be present to collect meals.
As mandated by the Rhode Island Department of Education, Chariho is also proceeding with the development of its virtual learning program.
“That’s coming along well,” Daly said. “We’ve got some plans in place to get some resources out through the internet for our families this week, meaning not instruction, but just some resources that they’ll be able to access during this week.”
Middle and high school students were instructed to take their tablet computers and chargers home with them last week and Daly said parents would soon be receiving online surveys assessing their internet connectivity and computer access.
“What we’re looking for is information from families about their internet access, and at the elementary level, their access to devices,” she said.
The district is asking parents to complete the surveys by the end of day on Tuesday, March 17.
The Pre-K to grade 4 survey is available at:
The survey for grades 5 to 12 is at: http://track.spe.schoolmessenger.com/f/a/H3bmUAq56o7vvNwPhfFurg~~/AAAAAQA~/RgRgUQEaP0QgaHR0cDovL2JpdC5seS9TZWNvbmRhcnlWSURTdXJ2ZXlXB3NjaG9vbG1CCgAAms1vXowuOBFSG2phbmUuZGFseUBjaGFyaWhvLmsxMi5yaS51c1gEAAAAAQ~~> School Survey<http://track.spe.schoolmessenger.com/f/a/HZoMVu_NJ59kgVg2ffPoSQ~~/AAAAAQA~/RgRgUQEaP0QjaHR0cHM6Ly9mb3Jtcy5nbGUvOVlSQUJNY1JEN0J1RVBkbjhXB3NjaG9vbG1CCgAAms1vXowuOBFSG2phbmUuZGFseUBjaGFyaWhvLmsxMi5yaS51c1gEAAAAAQ~~>: http://bit.ly/SecondaryVIDSurvey
Daly added that some schoolwork packets would be made available this week.
“We’re putting together some paper packets, some work packets for elementary students,” she said. “I know we already have the pre-K ready, and they’ll be able to pick them up at Hope Valley [elementary school] Tuesday, that’s where our preschool is, and we’ll have some packets ready at the high school…We’re just trying to get some immediate information out to families if students are bored this week. Our full virtual learning plan, that will be something that will come out later this week, and that will start next week.”
Daly urged families to check the Chariho website often, since the situation is evolving: https://www.chariho.k12.ri.us/
Towns take additional measures
The three Chariho towns have ramped up their responses to the coronavirus.
Charlestown Town Hall remains unlocked, but Town Administrator Mark Stankiewicz urged residents to stay away if they are ill.
“If you’re sick, don’t come,” he said. “We’re doing a little bit of social distancing, so we have a table where people can sit and do their stuff so they don’t have to be at the counter all the time … It has been quiet, but there are some processes that continue.”
While all public meetings have been canceled, Stankiewicz said some of those cancellations could create legal challenges for the town.
“The Budget Commission is supposed to be making their recommendation to the Town Council no later than April 1, and without having public meetings, this is going to be problematic and may put us in violation of our charter and our ordinances,” he said.
Another challenge, Stankiewicz said, was the directive issued Monday that beginning Tuesday, all bars and restaurants had to stop serving on their premises.
“How is she notifying all of these people?” he asked, referring to the governor. “She says the Department of Health is going to enforce this … these folks are going to be out of business. How are these people are going to be notified between 12 noon (Monday) and midnight? Who’s supposed to inform them? Is it the state? Is it us? How do we get this stuff out?”
In Richmond, Town Administrator Karen Pinch said Town Hall was now locked.
“We’ve got a note on the door that says ‘people are working inside,’” she said. “If you think your need is necessary and immediate, please call the main number to be connected to the appropriate department and we will vet the need and determine if it’s something we can handle over the phone or if there’s another way to do it.”
Pinch said the town was planning to hold today's council meeting in accordance with the governor's new directives.
"Our plan is to move forward with the meeting with some or most of the council calling in, having at least just the president [Richard Nassaney] here and having the videographer here to video," she said. "It'll be live-streamed so people will be able to see, and at the point in the meeting where Rich will accept public comment he'll pause and allow people to call in to the main number."
Residents wishing to participate in the public forum are asked to call 401-539-9000 and select option 9 from the prompts.
"We've already tested this," Pinch said. "We've got a phone in there right now. Option 9 does ring directly into the council chambers ... and then they'll be able to make any comments they want at the appropriate time."
In Hopkinton, Town Manager William McGarry said Monday afternoon that the Town Council meeting scheduled for Monday evening had been canceled and access to town departments has been restricted.
"We’re going to going to have limited access to all town departments and buildings,” he said. “The employees are still going to work, but the doors are going to be locked. We’re going to put it on the website and we’re also going to post it at each separate building. If you want to do business, you’re going to either call or use email and they’ll make a determination as to whether it’s an emergency or time sensitive where you’ve got to get in. But other than that, the buildings are going to be locked.”