School Districts must prepare 3 reopening plans by July 17 – full, partial & limited in-person instruction

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

The state Department of Health said there were 68 new cases of COVID-19 Friday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in Rhode Island to 16,337. There were also 9 deaths, for a total of 894. The number of new cases in East Greenwich has slowed considerably in recent weeks; the town had 73 cases as of June 15, the last time municipal totals were updated. Find all the most recent data at the DOH data hub HERE.

Gov. Gina Raimondo outlined what Phase 3 will look like during her COVID-19 press conference Friday. Phase 3 could start as soon as June 29 if current virus conditions continue. The approach during Phase 3 will be a little more hands off, Raimondo said, with the expectation that Rhode Islanders now know what they are supposed to do and will comply. 

“Follow the rules. It’s the right thing to do as a Rhode Islander to protect your community,” she said. “I want to provide guidelines and lead from a place of trust and confidence.”

Among the top rules: keeping a social distance, wearing face coverings when in close proximity to people outside your small circle and staying home when even a little bit sick.

The actual changes during Phase 3 include allowing social gatherings of 50 to 75 people indoors and 75 to 150 people outdoors. 

By social gatherings, Raimondo said she meant events where everyone knows each other, like birthdays and weddings. While 75 indoor and 150 outdoor are at the top of the ranges for those categories, “the lower the number, the lower the risk,” she stressed.

For indoor settings like retail establishments now operating under a square footage capacity,  Phase 3 will allow an increase of one person per 100 square feet. The former guideline was one person for every 150 square feet of space. Restaurants and places of worship – those places governed by percent capacity – can now go to two-thirds capacity, up from half now. Of course, Raimondo said, that’s “as long as you continue to comply with everything else.”

Entertainment venues like movie theaters and bowling alleys will be allowed to reopen in Phase 3 at 60 percent capacity – as long as people can have 6 feet of distance between parties. Really large indoor venues that can hold thousands, like the Dunk in Providence, should submit a plan to the state Dept. of Commerce for any event of more than 250 people. Performers must be at least 14 feet away from the audience and performers would need to stay apart as well. 

Locally, the Greenwich Odeum is eager to reopen, said board president Dan Speca. He said it’s in a good spot to be able to reopen safely. For one thing, he said, because of the way people buy tickets, it would be easy to contact trace attendees. And now with the upstairs area open, including a second bar and additional bathrooms and seating, it will be easier to maintain distancing. Find out more about the Odeum HERE.

Raimondo also spoke about the reopening of schools in two months. She is calling for schools to reopen for full in-class instruction but with contingency plans. Districts have until July 17 to submit their three plans for the fall, from complete in-person school to partial in-person (a combination of in-person and distance learning) to limited in-person, where, most likely, high schoolers would do distance learning and younger students would get in-person instruction. 

Districts would have the plans ready to go in case of a second wave or perhaps a problem at just one school.

Find full details HERE

In an interview last week, EG Supt. Alexis Meyer said she and other school district superintendents had been caught off guard by the governor’s announcement June 10 that schools would reopen Aug. 31. But, said Meyer, they would work hard to make that happen. 

She sent this message to families today: 

It is likely we will face many challenges when thinking through and developing our district plan.  We will need to think creatively about ways to provide transportation, establish social distancing measures, develop school schedules, and determine how programs and services are provided in school, in a remote setting, or some hybrid combination of both. Rest assured that, throughout this process, the safety of our students, faculty and staff, and families is our first priority.  

To continue to inform the community of our work, the Reopening Steering Committee will utilize the district listserv as well as post pertinent information and updates to the district website.  If you have any questions, please email us at reopeningschools@egsd.net.


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