The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) have released an Outbreak Response Playbook: Pre K - 12 guide today, providing district and school leaders with guidance on how to respond to various scenarios involving COVID-19 and their students, teachers, and staff. (See link below.)
"This Playbook provides clear guidance and structure to schools in their work to keep students, teachers, and staff as healthy and safe as possible this year when it comes to COVID-19," said Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH. "The Playbook was developed using the best science and data we have on COVID-19 infection control. We will continue to put public health first and rely on the facts in making decisions that are in best interest of students, parents, and educators."
"The health and safety of our students, staff, and communities are top priorities for us, even as we work to ensure our schools get back to their core educational mission," said Commissioner of Education Angélica Infante-Green. "This Playbook provides easy-to-use guidance that school leaders can rely on as they prepare to make school happen this year. We will continue to work with our district, charter and state-run schools to ensure they implement this guidance at the school level."
While the Playbook provides guidance for general scenarios that could arise, RIDOH and RIDE will consult closely with schools on all COVID-19-related health issues that surface to help manage those specific situations.
The Playbook outlines the symptoms of COVID-19, clarifies what should be considered a probable case of COVID-19, and defines "close contact" in a school setting. The Playbook details isolation and quarantine protocols for various scenarios, outlines testing recommendations, and includes clearance protocols for children and staff to later return to school. For example, the Playbook calls for people who meet the definition of a probable case to be sent home, isolate, and be allowed to return to school only after getting a negative COVID-19 test or completing the required isolation period after testing positive. As another example of guidance in the Playbook, schools are given recommendations on how to deal with a student or staff member who has symptoms of illness, but is not a probable case of COVID-19.
Decisions about reopening schools for in-person instruction in Rhode Island will be made considering five factors: statewide data, municipal data, testing capacity, the availability of supplies, and operational readiness. Schools will only be opened for full in-person learning if benchmarks in all of these areas are met.
More information about school reopening in Rhode Island can be found at www.back2schoolri.com, including district, charter and state-run school reopening plans, important updates from RIDE, and answers to Frequently Asked Questions.