With more than 400 student absences, Burrillville will move to distance learning Thursday


BURRILLVILLE – The Burrillville School District will return to distance learning for the remainder of this week after finding an average of 430 student absences each day following the return from winter break.

Supt. Michael Sollitto announced the plan to relaunch virtual learning on Thursday, Jan. 6 as COVID-19 cases rise across the state in a letter to parents Wednesday morning.

“We are also experiencing a rise in COVID cases at all of our schools,” explained a joint letter from Sollitto and Director of Curriculum Julie Mayhew. “Compounding this problem is the need for unvaccinated close contacts to quarantine and for symptomatic individuals to isolate.”

In addition to the roughly 21 percent student absences, the letter notes an average of 38 teachers – or 19 percent of the teaching staff – has been out every day.

The decision comes as Rhode Island schools await an update to quarantine and isolation protocols from the Rhode Island Department of Health and the Department of Education. At a press briefing last week, Gov. Dan McKee pointed to new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, saying that schools in the state would open this week, with new mandates from RIDOH to follow.

“Hopefully, this will address the amount of time that otherwise healthy individuals are required to quarantine and/or isolate,” the letter notes of the upcoming update to how schools must handle positive cases.

Sollitto told NRI NOW that he is hoping the revised playbook will be released on Friday, and that he is expecting the isolation and quarantine requirement to be cut from 10 days to 5, in keeping with guidance from the CDC, and that asymptomatic close contacts can attend school as long as they are masked and symptom free.

In the meantime, it seems protocols dictating that close contacts stay home has left Burrillville schools somewhat empty. The change to distance learning will remain in place through Friday, Jan. 7.

“We expect to be back on Monday,” Sollitto said.

A summary of the district’s distance learning plan can be found here, and parents are instructed to contact their child’s teacher or school principal with any additional questions. After school events are expected take place as normally scheduled unless otherwise noted.

“We make every effort to safely maintain in person teaching and learning,” district officials stated in the note to parents. “However, we have reached the point where this move is necessary to ensure consistent instruction for all students.”

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