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Editorial & Opinion

Stephanie Meuse: Parents teachers and students want to be heard on school reopening

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We ask to be heard. We ask for due diligence. Before we send students and school staff back to school buildings, risking the health and safety of every single person in our communities, we insist there be walk-throughs of each building, each bus route. We want the reopening plans reviewed and signed off on by nonpartisan experts in public health, mental health and education and equity…


I am a 4th grade teacher at The Learning Community in Central Falls, a mom of twins living in East Providence and one of many Rhode Islanders who feels like they have not been heard regarding school reopening plans.

I moderate a group of 13,000 Rhode Islanders who have organized over the last 3 weeks to raise concerns and questions about Rhode Island’s quest to reopen schools in just 31 days.

I won’t pretend to speak for every school staff member, family or student – but, Governor Raimondo, I will respectfully say that at this point I think as a group we’ve heard and processed more public feedback on the topic than you.

We are anxious parents, who have read all 3 scenarios for our children’s schools multiple times. We are teachers and school staff from underfunded and understaffed school districts who have spent our summer, unpaid, helping to create the 3 reopening scenarios for our own schools. WE are not misinformed. We are concerned.

From full return to partial in person to limited in person to full virtual learning – plans for Fall range from unsafe, to underfunded, to untenable, to developmentally inappropriate to logistically impossible to implement in just 31 days.


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Concerns raised range from inadequate ventilation in school buildings across the state, to the impossible job of being a parent in one district and a teacher in another with conflicting hybrid schedules. What are the protocols when, not if, if we have learned anything from watching camps and sports teams open across the United States, but when a positive case presents? Who will quarantine? For how long?

We ask to be heard. We ask for due diligence. Before we send students and school staff back to school buildings, risking the health and safety of every single person in our communities, we insist there be walk-throughs of each building, each bus route. We want the reopening plans reviewed and signed off on by nonpartisan experts in public health, mental health and education and equity.

And honestly. If we really want to get back to school, as a nation, as a state, as a community – we will heed the advice of health professionals warning us to hit the reset button and shut back down.

I agree with something you have said again and again governor – we need our children to return to school Unfortunately, we have prioritized opening bars, beaches and restaurants at the expense of being able to send our school children, as many other countries have, safely back to their classrooms this fall. With our urban districts reporting over 20% infection rates (and trending upward), serving over 40,000 students and employing Rhode Islanders from across the state – we absolutely cannot return to school buildings in 31 days.

No matter how we slice it, distance learning will be a part of Rhode Island school children’s education during the 2020-2021 school year – either because the families who are able to will opt to keep their children home, or because children exposed or showing one of the multitude of symptoms will be asked to stay home for an as of yet to be determined period of time or because we made the wrong decision and our numbers trend back to where they were in March, before stay at home orders were in place – throwing us back into emergency distance learning that was so largely a failure for many families, students and teachers across the state in the Spring.

Governor Raimondo, I urge you to redirect our state’s time and resources now into making high speed internet and technology accessible to every single student in the state. I urge you to make the call now to keep school buildings closed on August 31 so that school communities can spend the next few weeks planning for distance learning. I urge you to act as proactively as you did in the Spring to give our families and communities whatever they need to keep their students and families safe. Money, time and power are all yours to lend us in the face of this unprecedented challenge for students, families and school staff across our state.

Stephanie Meuse is a 4th grade teacher at The Learning Community in Central Falls, a mom of twins living in East Providence and one of many Rhode Islanders who feels like they have not been heard regarding school reopening plans.