District to continue COVID mitigation strategies including vaccinations, testing, and sanitation
PROVIDENCE, RI – After consultation with the Rhode Island Department of Health, closely monitoring cases in the District, and gathering feedback from students, parents, teachers, and staff, Providence Public Schools will be implementing a mask optional policy beginning on Monday, April 11 .
Over the past several weeks, there has been an average of less than ten positive COVID-19 cases each day across the District of over 20,000 students. Last week, Providence Schools launched a community survey to gather input from students, families, staff, and community members. More than 3,000 people responded, and approximately 70% agreed with making masks optional for students and staff. The full results of the survey are provided below.
“In Providence and districts across the state we are fortunately seeing a decline in students testing positive for COVID,” said Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green . “Given this data, the experience of other districts, and after consultation with health experts and the PPSD community, we have decided to move Providence Public Schools to a mask optional policy starting on Monday, April 11. This is a positive milestone brought about by the district’s strong COVID mitigation efforts.”
“We are pleased to be at a point where the data shows it is safe for Providence Public Schools to move to a mask optional policy,” said Superintendent Dr. Javier Montañez . “However, I want to stress that we may return to masking if there’s a spike in cases. We will be tracking the data closely. I also want to stress that masks are just one layer of our COVID strategy. We will continue to provide free vaccination clinics, free testing, and increased ventilation and sanitation in all schools.”
The District will follow up directly with students, families, and staff to provide full updated COVID guidance. School principals will also review this updated guidance with staff and students. Some of the updates to school guidance include:
- There will be no tolerance for any negative comments regarding a person’s choice for masking.
- People who have or develop symptoms must isolate at home for at least 5 days from the onset of symptoms, and wear a well-fitting mask for 5 more days regardless of vaccination status.
- Per RIDOH guidance, PPSD has shifted away from contact tracing and is focused on outbreak response:
- For elementary schools, schools will notify all students and families if there is a potential exposure from someone in their homeroom. The District will advise that non-vaccinated students in the classroom wear masks for 10 days from date of first exposure.
- For middle and high schools, schools will notify all students that there was a positive case in the school, and advise that non-vaccinated students who share a classroom with the positive student wear masks for 10 days from date of first exposure.
- The District will shift to requiring masks if advised by RIDOH or other state officials. Additionally, if the CDC’s Community Risk Level for Providence County increases from low to medium or high, PPSD may return to mask requirements for all individuals.