Cumberland schools working on opening plans after surprise announcement

Cumberland schools working on opening plans after surprise announcement

CUMBERLAND – Last week’s announcement by Gov. Gina Raimondo that the state will have a blanket back-to-school date of Aug. 31 took local superintendents completely by surprise, said Cumberland Supt. Bob Mitchell.

Everything they’d heard to that point was that there would be some type of hybrid system of in-school and out-of-school learning, he said, and they were working to make a plan that was advantageous to families and cost-effective.

With the new mandate, now in place, Mitchell told the School Committee, there’s a lot of work to do in a short time.

School Committee member Karen Freedman said during last Thursday’s meeting that a task force charged with getting the district back to school is representing a variety of constituencies. She said parents and students must be included in this process, and good communication is important.

Mitchell said school officials expect to get direction in writing from the state by this Friday, June 19, a guidance “playbook” of sorts for how to proceed with minimum health and safety requirements for students and teachers. State officials will then work with local districts to develop their plans, and every school system will have to provide their completed plan by July 17.

There’s a whole lot of work to do between now and July 17, said Mitchell, not to mention the enormous amount of planning needed to reopen schools fully by Aug. 31.

It’s important to note that the district will be following CDC guidelines, and health and safety “have to be our top priority,” said Mitchell. The model the district goes with will be fiscally responsible and meet instructional needs.

Mitchell pledged to keep the school board up to speed as subcommittees proceed with their planning work. There are six subcommittees, including on instruction, wellness, facilities, governance, school operations and technology.

Everything will have a budgetary implication, from classroom sizes to busing needs, as local educators determine how to implement everything within CDC guidelines.

Schools are doing a lot of outreach, said Mitchell, seeking input through surveys and keeping families part of the process. Many will likely be overwhelmed at the thought of sending their students back into a school environment for the start of the 2020-2021 year.

It’s “a little overwhelming, but we’ll get it done,” said Mitchell.

Raimondo announced last week that all schools will have a uniform calendar for a new year starting on Aug. 31, with new restrictions in place. Virtual learning will replace traditional days off for snow.

The governor announced that she’s planning to send some $42 million in federal CARES Act money to districts to help them deal with the changes that will be needed to accommodate in-person learning, including greater spacing of desks and triple the bus routes that are currently in place statewide.

“We are planning for a safe, in-person return to school this fall,” said Raimondo. “The first step comes today, with our new statewide school calendar. This gives us a solid foundation to ensure our students are back in their classrooms as soon as possible, while providing the flexibility we need to quickly respond to changing circumstances. We are moving forward on all fronts to make sure school opens on time.”

“The entire Rhode Island education community stepped up to make distance learning happen on short notice this year, and for that we should be extremely proud,” said Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green. “We are working to develop a range of options to help schools open, make sure students learn, and safeguard their health and safety. By putting all our school systems on a common calendar, we will be able to provide the high levels of support and coordination we need no matter what the future brings.”

All students and teachers will have a winter vacation Feb. 15-19, 2021. Everyone will have a spring vacation from April 19-23.


Her "surprise" announcement was nothing more than a attempt to change the subject from her breaking ALL of her social distancing rules during a protest. Do as I say not as I do. Right Gov?