BURRILLVILLE – The Burrillville School Committee approved an update to the district’s reopening plan Tuesday night adding one day a week of in-person learning for high school and middle school students starting Tuesday, Oct. 13.
The decision came as parents pleaded with administrators this week for some in-person instruction for Burrillville’s older students, who under the original plan were only offered virtual learning.
“It would be my and others request that students go back as soon as possible,” said Richard Burgon. “There are many, many parents in town who feel students should be back in school. Many of the people I talk to feel it’s a huge, huge overreaction in the state”
Burgon pointed to an article from the Center for Disease Control noting that the number of students considering suicide has risen in recent months.
He was not alone in his advocacy.
“I certainly understand that it’s not feasible every day,” said parent Kristin Raimond, noting that her son has been spending up to four hours at a time staring at a computer screen. “He has a headache. I would love to at least see the kids go back one day.”
Holly Picard said that when she informed her son there was a chance he might go back one day a week, “He was absolutely thrilled.”
“I know this is a huge task,” Picard said. “I know there’s a lot of challenges.”
Starting in mid-October, each grade of students at the two schools will return for one day a week. At the high school, that means seniors will attend on Tuesdays, juniors on Wednesdays, sophomores on Thursdays and freshman on Fridays.
“That will provide, at all levels, some amount of in-person instruction,” said Supt. Michael Sollitto.
“There’s not many 11th and 12th graders who take buses so it will ease the burden a bit,” Sollitto noted of the decision to schedule the oldest students earlier in the week, when buses are already filled with younger students. “There will be some flexibility within the schedule.”
Sollitto thanked Facilities Director Bill Robinson and Business Manager Robin Kilmatian for making arrangements with custodial staff.
“As you know our middle school and high school are both very big buildings,” Sollitto said. “I think we can safely do it by the middle of October.”
Committee member Sylvia St. Pierre cast the only dissenting vote against the plan.
“I’m going to vote no because I believe the health and safety of our children is of the utmost importance,” St. Pierre said. “Nobody knows much about this COVID.”
Committee member Alexandra Leclaire noted that she’s been an advocate of at least a partial return for the town’s older students.
“I really appreciate that we were able to deliver,” said Leclaire, adding, “I want people to know when I make these votes I have student safety and health at front of mind, top of mind.”
Member Dorothy Cardon said she was voting in favor of the proposal despite some reservations.
“I hope there is a plan in place that if there is exposure to this virus – that something will be done immediately,” said Cardon. “I have concerns, but I also want to see education begin.”
“I think we’re all in agreement that student safety is top priority,” said Chairman Mark Brizard. “I’m very confident in this team so I vote yes.”
Member Terri Lacey noted that the decisions regarding students’ return amid the pandemic haven’t been easy.
“I think it’s important that the kids get back – even if it’s one day a week,” Lacey said.
“Everybody has to do their part,” Lacey added. “I have a strong feeling that this is going to work. It’s going to be safe.”