At the September 3 City Council Meeting, Councilman John Goncalves (Ward 1) introduced several resolutions with City Council colleagues regarding the start of the new school year, school improvements and COVID-19 preparedness within Providence schools.
“As we approach the 2020-2021 school year, it is crucial that we take all considerations to build a safe and productive school year. I commend and applaud the hard work of the Department of Education, Commissioner Infante-Green, Superintendent Peters and the Department of Health, and offer these resolutions as simply suggestions to further ensure these goals are met,” stated Councilman Goncalves.
The first resolution encourages Providence residents to vote “Yes” on the November ballot referendum to approve a $40 million bond for school improvements in Providence. These improvements would include construction, renovation, landscaping, furnishing and equipping Providence schools and school facilities throughout the City.
This resolution is co-sponsored by Council President Matos (Ward 15), Council President Pro Tempore Correia (Ward 6), Councilwoman Anthony (Ward 2), Councilwoman Castillo (Ward 9), Councilman Espinal (Ward 10), Finance Chairman Igliozzi (Ward 7), Councilwoman Kerwin (Ward 12), Councilor Miller (Ward 13), Councilor Salvatore (Ward 14) and Councilman Narducci (Ward 4).
Council President Matos stated, “While we should prioritize the warmth, safety, and security of our learning spaces for our youth, we should also invest into projects that inspire learning and instill a sense of pride in students about the spaces they spend most of their days in. Voting yes on this ballot referendum would help provide us the flexibility we need to work towards transforming our schools both academically and structurally into investments we can be proud of.”
As plans are made to begin the new school year, the possibility remains that students will be returning to in person learning for at least some of the school year. This means that the physical state of Providence school buildings remain a timely and important concern.
The second resolution proposed by Councilman Goncalves requests that the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) ensure that every Providence Public School has a trained nurse available on site during the day.
“As in-person learning resumes, at a time when public health is so important, it is imperative that a trained nurse or substitute nurse in every building be made available to all Providence students. This will further protect the health of Providence children, their families and surrounding communities,” added Councilman Goncalves.
The next resolution suggests that the RIDE and Providence Public Schools provide a remote learning best practices workshop for parents, through whichever means they see fit. This resolution has been co-sponsored by Council President Matos, Council President Pro Tempore Corriea, Councilor Anthony, Councilor Castillo, Councilor Miller, Councilor Narducci, Councilor Kerwin and Councilor Salvatore.
“So many parents have suddenly had to become teachers as they help their children navigate distance learning. Feedback has indicated that many parents would like to learn more about what they can do at home to provide the best possible learning environment for their children,” continued Councilman Goncalves.
“With the possibility that schools may be relying on distance learning for part of the school year, this type of training would help to mitigate absenteeism and provide parents with some assurance as families adjust to this change,” stated Councilor Anthony.
The final resolution recommends that RIDE utilize disaggregate data in their school operations decision making. While the current guidelines call for broad municipal data in which any city or town with more than 100 positive cases per 100,000 residents cannot move to a full in-person reopening, disaggregate data captures community spread of COVID-19 more closely by pinpointing data within certain subsets of the populations such as race, ethnicity and zip code.
“We have all learned that data and science is crucial when it comes to combating COVID-19. I have 100% confidence in our Governor, Department of Health and Department of Education and the five metric methodology for a safe reopening in person, and this is simply a recommendation to look at our municipal readiness in a more granular way. Since COVID zip code data is readily available, looking at zip codes, race and ethnicity to guide school operation decisions could ensure a safe and equitable return to school, specifically among communities of color and zip codes that have been disproportionately impacted,” stated Councilman Goncalves.
“Communities of color and lower income communities have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 within the City of Providence. This disaggregate data would provide a deeper understanding of the risks involved with returning to school within these specific communities and zip codes’ ‘ stated Finance Chariman Igliozzi.
Council President Matos added, “It’s extremely important that we as the City Council continue to advocate for reform and transformation in our schools: whether it be for better family engagement or basic personnel such as a school nurse. I’m proud to have partnered with Councilman Goncalves and my Council Colleagues in bringing forth these resolutions to keep our kids and families safe.”
Upon passage, these resolutions will be transmitted to the Honorable Governor of the State of Rhode Island, the Mayor of Providence, the Superintendent of the Providence Public School District, and the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education for the State of Rhode Island.