Above: Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green speaks at Gov. Raimondo’s daily coronavirus update. Pool photo: Sandor Bodo / Providence Journal
Distance learning to continue; 412 new cases in RI, 28 in EG
By Elizabeth F. McNamara
Rhode Island had 412 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday, the highest single-day total so far, and 8 additional deaths. The state now has 6,256 total cases and 189 deaths. The good news is that hospital numbers continue to be stable, with 267 in the hospital, 72 in intensive care and of those, 45 on ventilators. East Greenwich had 28 cases Thursday; the town ranks 21st in the number of COVID-19 cases. Find all the state Dept. of Health data HERE.
It felt inevitable, with the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases still climbing, but Gov. Gina Raimondo’s announcement at her Thursday briefing that schools would not be reopening this school year and distance learning would continue, felt like the last little bit of air coming out of a balloon.
“This is a bummer … and I’m sorry,” Raimondo said, addressing the Class of 2020 in particular. “The spring of your senior year is supposed to be a fun time. Walking across the stage and picking up your diploma and throwing your cap into the air.”
EGHS senior Suraj Sait, the Class of 2020 valedictorian, said he wasn’t surprised by the announcement, noting that the number of new cases continues to climb. But he said he and his classmates were disappointed.
“We’ve held on to the hope that graduation, prom, Senior Week would happen. That hope has been extinguished now.”
“I am just as disappointed as they are today,” said incoming Supt. Alexis Meyer about Raimondo’s decision, though she too anticipated it. “They miss their friends, they miss all of the things that are really a rite of passage no matter what grade you’re in.”
Raimondo and Meyer both said there would be other ways to celebrate the Class of 2020 and the end of the school year.
“We’re going to do lots of other things,” said Raimondo. Sait said he and others were hoping maybe there could be a graduation ceremony in August.
Raimondo and Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green heaped praise on students, teachers and administrators for the gargantuan efforts made in distance learning.
“Rhode Island is a model for the nation on many fronts now, including education. Who would have said that 10 months ago, 2 months ago,” said Infante-Green, acknowledging the state’s less than stellar test results over the years. “Our participation numbers remain strong, our teachers remain focused.”
She lauded the contributions from private companies, philanthropic groups, and individuals who help provide the vital technology necessary to make distance learning even possible.
“We said, we’re going to get to 100 percent and we have rallied,” she said referring to getting students the technology they need”. That’s what’s different; that’s why we are leading the nation.”
“We feared students wouldn’t engage,” said the governor. “That is not what’s happening at all. By every measure, engagement is very high…. There are still glitches. There will continue to be.
But participation rates are above 90 percent…. Children are learning and learning well.”
In East Greenwich, Alexis Meyer is equally proud but aware of the difficulties. She said she’d gotten a call from an 8th grader who was struggling with distance learning (Meyer said she welcomes hearing directly from students).
“Distance learning is good for some people, but for me it’s really hard,” the student told her. The student was struggling with being organized, said Meyer. “I talked to him about it. I called his guidance counselor and we were able to work through it. He’s doing well now.”
She added, “People have really come together in this community. We could never have made this distance learning work without the involvement of parents. They have to be teachers on some level and they have a new appreciation of what teachers do.”
On Thursday, Gov. Raimondo said there was a new distance learning helpline through the state Department of Education and the Highlander Institute, at (909) 414-4927; click HERE for more information.
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