Updates on Coronavirus

We know it is difficult to keep up with the rapid changes happening surrounding Coronavirus (COVID-19). Understand that NEARI is in constant contact with Governor Raimondo's office, we are receiving updates from her staff, and will continue to follow guidance from the R.I. Department of Health.

 RIDOH Fact Sheet  

 

 

Coronavirus Update - March 30, 2020

Today, Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green joined Governor Raimondo's press conference for announcements surrounding education and distance learning. The Commissioner held a conference call in advance of the press conference for RI school leaders where more detailed information was given.
 
Both the Commissioner and the Governor thanked educators, students and families for their hard work and dedication to making distance learning as successful as possible.

Distance Learning through April

The Governor announced distance learning will continue through the month of April. At the end of April they will re-evaluate and make necessary adjustments at that time.

Professional Development Days - April 3 & 17

The Commissioner asked that all districts adopt the same calendar for the month of April for consistency. To allow for planning time, virtual staff and team meetings, etc.,  RIDE is recommending April 3 and 17 for PD Days.

Long Weekend - April 9-12

Again, adopting a consistent calendar for April will allow for a long weekend to be available to everyone. RIDE recommends April 9 and 10 to make the long weekend. April 10 is Good Friday which most districts have off already. 
 
RIDE will incorporate those days into the 180-day school count. In other words, if suggested calendar is adopted, those days will not need to be made up.

WiFi Coverage & Internet Access

All households with a smartphone with a WiFi hotspot feature and cell service from Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, or Sprint will be able to activate that hotspot for free - activation fee, no usage fee, no overage fee - until May 18.

Cox Communications has offered to put Internet access in a low-income household for $9.95 per month with the first 60 days free. 

April Reading Challenge

The Governor has challenged all Rhode Islanders to read every day in the month of April. RIDE will launch a page on their website on this soon. Ocean Staters will be able to log reading minutes, videos, and photos on their progress. 

Efforts will be made by RIDE to get books into the hands of all students and families. More details to come from the state on this initiative.

Kids Press Conference

The Governor's press conference on Thursday, April 2 at 1:00 p.m. will be geared to children. This will be the Governor’s chance to talk directly with students, to answer their questions and to share important information with them as they are learning to live with the changes we’ve had to make as a result of COVID-19.

Students will have until Wednesday, April 1st at noon to submit questions. They can be submitted via a Google form. For those families without internet access, students can submit questions by calling the Governor’s office. 

Resources will be made available to teachers for mini-lessons in the run up to Thursday's press conference. 

Testing

RIDE has applied for a waiver from the federal government suspend the administration of state tests - including RICAS - this year. All SAT school day administrations this school year are canceled, and RIDE is working with the College Board to provide an opportunity for current juniors to take the SAT, most likely in the fall.

Mental Health

RIDE shares the concerns of many school leaders regarding mental health services for students and are working to increase pediatric mental health capacity. 

The Commissioner highlighted Kids Link, a hotline that operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Parents can call 1-855-543-5465.

More information

All this information is available in full on RIDE's website.
 
The Governor holds press conferences on Coronavirus updates every day at 1:00 p.m. unless otherwise noted. These are broadcast live on television and digitally on Facebook. You can watch past briefings as well, accessible through the RI Department of Health website.

Coronavirus Update - March 22, 2020

NEARI President Larry Purtill sends message of encouragement to educators and education support professionals on their first day of distance learning in Rhode Island amid the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

Coronavirus Update - March 20, 2020 A Message to Members from Larry Purtill 

All,

I know how busy you are, and I want to thank you for your continued dedication. Things are changing exponentially as we move through each day. As we close out the first week, a reminder that all updates and helpful links and resources can be found here on our Coronavirus response page: www.neari.org/covid-19.

Local presidents came together last night (March 19) for a conference call with me, Bob, NEARI UniServs and staff to review the week and discuss what is to come in the next week or two.
 
First, two principles that must guide all our decisions going forward during this crisis:

  1. Our number one priority continues to be the health and safety of our members and our students.
  2. Keeping our members employed and paid is paramount. We must do the best we can and work together. 

We will continue to protect collective bargaining, but to achieve our major goal here, we will need patience and flexibility. I understand the challenge when there is so much anxiety and uncertainty, but we can do this. (View NEARI Statement of Action)

The projections on those exposed and who have the virus here in Rhode Island is going to increase dramatically in the next week to 10 days as Coronavirus testing continues. 

The Governor has closed schools with distance learning to begin this Monday, March 23 through Friday April 3. Then the plan will be re-evaluated. Just a reminder, these count as school days and do not have to be made up. 

Governor Raimondo has asked that we do everything we can to make this work. 
 
She does not want our members unemployed any more than we do! She knows this is not an ideal learning or teaching situation, but we need to give it all we have and do the best possible job.

Employment and Safety

I know some teachers and ESP – especially ESP – are being told to return to school buildings and campuses despite the call to close schools. If the building is cleaned and safe and social distancing can be maintained, we want you working and paid.
 
I understand the equity and fairness issue here. And that is something we need to address, but right now is not that time. Please continue to communicate with your local presidents about any issues and concerns. We have asked presidents to log these issues and bring them to our next conference call, so that we can address them and respond. 

Additionally, UniServ staff are in constant contact with local presidents.

Mental Health

I don’t need to tell you how important it is, in these anxious times, for students to have some continuity and familiarity in their lives. You will continue to play a vital role in the mental health of Rhode Island’s children. Your efforts are critical, and I thank you for them. 

Please remember self-care! The care and comfort of yourself and your family is equally important. Adjust your fitness routine, go on family walks, schedule a video conference with family and friends, take up yoga, download that meditation app you’ve been putting off.
 
The outbreak of Coronavirus COVID-19, self-quarantining, and social distancing is stressful and can feel overwhelming. It can feel isolating too. Remember to try and stay connected and manage any anxiety. If you need to talk to a professional, you can get connected to a provider through www.bhlink.org

Evaluations

We have asked that all K-12 and higher ed evaluations be suspended for the remainder of the school year/semester. We are aware and understand the concern for those who may have completed their evals already this year or have done observations and do not want to lose all their work. Give us some time; the staff is working on a plan. This is one of many issues where, while difficult, patience is needed.

Testing

All standardized testing is postponed for now. The College Board has cancelled the May 2 SAT and are considering online AP tests. The Commissioner made this announcement Wednesday in her briefing with superintendents. The Governor and her staff have been in constant contact and reach out to us and respond immediately to our concerns. 

Professional Development 

There is going to be an ongoing need for professional development and NEARI’s PD committee will be meeting virtually next week to address needs.

Communications

We are doing our best to ensure all communication channels are open. Please keep a running list of issues that arise and pass them on to your presidents. Presidents: keep in contact with your UniServs. 

All members – please add the following two emails to your contacts, so that our messages reach your inbox: email@email.nea.org and rhodeislandnea@gmail.com.

Please check on colleagues to ensure they are receiving notices, anyone not receiving notices should email Stephanie Mandeville at smandeville@neari.org. 

Check our website and social media platforms often. 

Anticipate another message on Sunday and we will tentatively schedule another call for presidents on Tuesday, March 24 to check in and see how things are progressing and hear any issues and concerns.  
 
This is not ideal, I know. But I have seen the posts from our members on social media and others in the community and I see support and positivity. 

Let’s work together. Let’s use each other as sounding boards instead of social media. Keep your issues and frustrations flowing up to NEARI so we can respond.  

Saying thank you just doesn’t seem like enough, but thank you for all you have contributed to this “new normal” thus far and moving forward. This global pandemic is the most severe crisis and challenge many of us will face. Your leadership, patience and dedication in these trying times is crucial. Thank you again. 

We. Can. Do. This. 

In solidarity,
Larry


 

Coronavirus Update - March 16 at 11:42 a.m.

On Sunday, March 15, the National Education Association Rhode Island (NEARI) held a conference call with local presidents to discuss members' concerns during the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. NEARI recommends the following items in an effort to ensure the health and safety of our students, our members, and our communities:  

  1. NEARI recommends that all public employees and private higher education faculty and staff continue to be paid their regular salary and benefits during the crisis.
  2. NEARI recommends that all teachers and education support professionals NOT be required to enter any school buildings while they remain closed to students.
  3. NEARI recommends that all custodial staff receive and use proper safety gear while cleaning.
  4. NEARI recommends that all mandatory standardized testing be suspended for the remainder of the school year.
  5. NEARI recommends that all K-12 teacher evaluations be suspended for the remainder of the school year. 
  6. NEARI recommends that all professional development requirements be suspended for the remainder of the school year.
  7. NEARI recommends that all teacher certifications scheduled to expire in 2020 be extended until 2021.
  8. NEARI recommends that all higher education faculty evaluations be suspended for the remainder of the spring semester.
  9. NEARI recommends that all local presidents and employer representatives maintain regular communication during the crisis to keep lines of communication open.
  10. NEARI recommends that with the suspension of April vacation, employers work with NEARI local presidents to find a time before the end of the school year where teachers can access time for a break from work with their families.
  11. NEARI recommends that any educator(s) working with students covered under an Individual Education Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan be held harmless for any provisions of IEP/504 plans that cannot be met as a result of the ongoing school closure and for any period of remote learning.
  12. NEARI recommends all employers who are party to an existing and/or expired collective bargaining agreement with a NEARI local union engage in effects bargaining on any change or proposed change in working conditions as a result of the school closure and/or remote learning initiatives. The timing of such effects bargaining should be consistent with preserving the health and safety of all participants. 

The National Education Association Rhode Island is a union and professional organization with a proud history of serving Rhode Island since 1845. NEARI is 12,000 members strong; we are classroom teachers, education support professionals, higher education faculty and staff, municipal and state workers, graduate assistants, and retirees. We are affiliated with the National Education Association (NEA) and RI AFL-CIO.
 

NEARI Statement of Action-PDF


 

Coronavirus Update as of March 13 at 2:30 p.m.
 

This afternoon Governor Gina Raimondo made the decision to close all Rhode Island public schools beginning Monday, March 16 through the end of the week. NEARI fully supports this effort to mitigate community spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19). 

School vacation week is being moved from April to the week of March 16. It is going to be critical that this time is used for superintendents, school leaders, teachers, and staff to develop virtual and remote learning plans. Districts should have their plans submitted to RIDE on or before Thursday, March 19, 2020. The closure will be evaluated on a week-by-week basis.

The Governor emphasized that because budgets are already in place, employers should continue to pay hourly staff. She also made a point to thank educators, staff and school nurses for their dedication.

Following the guidelines shared today is critical.  

This means that public school employees will not be reporting to their workplace. Teachers and staff are being asked to remain available in case they are needed to assist in planning future distance learning activities.The focus on changing vacation week is to allow districts to better prepare, to execute environmental cleaning measures, and to build testing capacity, all while limiting the spread of COVID-19.

The Department of Health confirmed nine additional cases, three of which are pediatric. This brings the total number of known cases from five yesterday to 14 today. All patients are recovering at home and one is in nursing home isolation.

All who have traveled outside of mainland United States are being asked to self-quarantine for 14 days. The Governor will be issuing an executive order for today going forward to make that a requirement.

All Rhode Islanders are being urged to avoid non-essential crowds. The ability to avoid crowds is extremely helpful in preventing community spread.

We understand that moving a vacation week and working through it is not typical, but it is not unprecedented. This is a moment in time where the window to act in order to mitigate the virus is now. Right now our primary concern is the health and safety of our students, educators and staff.

NEARI will continue to monitor issues and communicate with the Governor's office, Department of Health, and RIDE.

To the extent that teachers and ESPs are being requested or required to plan activities for future distance learning, we do not yet know if this time will be considered part of or in addition to time required under collective bargaining agreements. To the extent that this time is additional, we have a mechanism to deal with that, but, again, our primary concern is the health and safety of our communities. We must remain flexible in these times of uncertainty. 

We have received questions from a few members regarding the moving of April vacation. While we acknowledge that this may be disruptive to scheduled plans, as noted already, we are in the middle of a global pandemic, so we must be flexible. It is highly uncertain what travel plans will look like in the coming weeks. 

We will be hosting a conference call for local presidents to help address questions and concerns during this global pandemic. The call-in instructions will be made available to local presidents in a separate email.  

Finally, we would like to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of our fellow members at the Department of Health who have been working around the clock to ensure our safety. 

Department of Health website


 

Coronavirus Update as of March 12 at 3:00 p.m.

RIDE Commissioner Infante-Green issued guidance today regarding potential school closures and flexibility related to instructional days for LEAs and a preparation plan template. In the interest of accuracy, the full closure memo and Local Education Agencies template is available and can be accessed by clicking the buttons below. 

The commissioner has asked district/school leaders to look over the large event guidance issued yesterday by Governor Raimondo and the Rhode Island Department of Health, especially the recommendation not to hold or organize events for the next two weeks that will be attended by 250 people or more. This recommendation is specific to organized events at which people will be concentrated for sustained periods of time, such as parties, sporting events, and parades. 
 
This recommendation does not pertain to the normal school day for students or to workplaces, as long as 250 or more people, including students, are not closely concentrated for sustained periods of time. Please ensure students are able to sit with the opportunity for them to have their own personal space protected, so they are not crowded in any given room.  
 
She has also encouraged school leaders to:

  • Update your visitor policy to verbally screen visitors by asking them if they are feeling sick before they enter the school. 
  • Adopt more frequent cleaning of common areas (handrails, door knobs, common spaces like cafeterias) so that they are cleaned throughout the day. 
  • Remind students, families, faculty and staff to stay home if they are feeling sick. 

RIDE School Closure Guidance

LEA Preparation Plan


 

Coronavirus Update as of March 11 at 4:30 p.m.

We know it is difficult to keep up with the rapid changes happening surrounding Coronavirus (COVID-19). Understand that NEARI is in constant contact with Governor Raimondo's office, we are receiving updates from her staff, and will continue to follow guidance from the R.I. Department of Health.

K-12 Guidance

  • The Governor's office is not ordering the closure of schools at this time.

  • The Governor's office is recommending that any events over 250 attendees be canceled or postponed.

  • There is no intention of closing down sports, however, there may be a call at some point in the future to limit spectators.

  • Districts are being asked to submit plans for online learning to RIDE for approval.

  • Districts are being asked to review their school building visitor policy, limit non-essential visitors, and screen for exposure those individuals cleared to visit. 

  • Districts are being asked to adopt more frequent cleaning policies.

  • Space students a safe distance apart from each other. For example, try not to have a crowded recess in the gym; take it outside. Wherever possible keep groups small to avoid close contact.

Higher Education Information

  • Community College of RI: Following the advice of the RIDOH, all events with 100 or more participants are canceled through Tuesday, April 7, 2020, including those organized by outside community partners hosted on a CCRI campus. Updates and more information
  • RI School of Design: Updates and information
  • Roger Williams University: Enacting plans to transition to online and alternate modes of instruction that will begin on March 23 and continue for as long as necessary this semester. In order to be fully prepared to transition to contingency plans, the University is extending student spring break by one week. Updates and information
  • University of RI: March 16-20 all face-to-face undergraduate and graduate classes on all campuses are cancelled. Classes will begin to be delivered remotely on March 23 through at least April 3. Updates and information

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