Sollitto: Burrillville schools must stick with distance learning through January


BURRILLVILLE – While the plan will still need approval from members of the School Committee, Supt. Michael Sollitto has announced that when Rhode Island schools open next month, Burrillville students will likely not be returning to the classroom.

In a letter to parents on Wednesday, Aug. 19, Sollitto said he plans to recommend a full distance learning model, citing safety issues and a shortfall in the funding needed for the district to implement full safety guidelines.

The superintendent pointed to the need for additional custodians during a meeting with the committee last week. This week, he noted that the facilities themselves would also need upgrades for staff to maintain proper cleaning and sanitizing, and adequate ventilation.

“All these areas are un-budgeted,” Sollitto said.

Transportation and other staffing requirements, he noted, are also an issue, and state allocations, which comprise a large chunk of district funding, are currently unknown.

While the neighboring district has yet to announce its plans, Supt. Michael St. Jean pointed to many of the same obstacles to North Smithfield’s reopening in a meeting with his school board earlier this week.

Sollitto presented the issues to members of the Town Council at their meeting Tuesday night. And on Tuesday, Aug. 25, he’ll ask members of the Burrillville School Committee to approve the full distance learning model.

“If approved, distance learning would begin on September 14 and run until at least January 1,” he noted.

Sollitto said that during that time, the district can slowly begin to transition specific groups back into school buildings, starting with special needs students.

“Please know that this is not a decision that is taken lightly,” Sollitto said. “At this point in the summer time is of the essence – families, students and staff need to plan in advance of the start of the school year.’

“The health and safety of our students and staff is highest priority,” he added. “All decisions are made with this in mind.”

Sollitto said that parents can expect to receive additional information in the upcoming weeks, and that he also plans to hold a parents’ forum.

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