As of August 7, 2020, more than 19,700 Rhode Island residents have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and the state has suffered more than 1,000 deaths.The coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately impacted communities of color in Rhode Island with a greater percentage of cases in the core cities of Central Falls, Pawtucket, Providence, and Woonsocket than in the remainder of the state. During the school closures, the nation witnessed the murder of George Floyd and subsequent national and local protests of police brutality and systemic racism. Rhode Island students and educators organized and participated in many protests throughout the state. COVID-19 and this social unrest has highlighted the many health, education, and economic disparities that exist for people of color and people with low incomes and the need to address these inequities.
The Rhode Island Department of Education released guidance for reopening schools and required all school districts to submit plans for reopening schools that considered four possible reopening scenarios – full distance learning for all, limited in-person learning, partial in-person learning, and full-in person learning for all.
- Each district was required to submit evidence that its plans address the needs of differently-abled students/students with disabilities and Multilingual Learners/English Learners.
- Districts were also required to incorporate plans to serve vulnerable students, defined as students who are differently-abled; Multilingual Learners; homeless or living in temporary housing; migrant; at-risk of leaving school; living in poverty or whose families face other challenges; or those directly affected by COVID-19, but evidence of serving these additional groups was not required.
Closing unacceptable, wide, and persistent gaps for differently-abled students, students of color, low-income students, Multilingual Learners, students in foster care, and students experiencing homelessness must be Rhode Island’s most urgent educational priority.