Cranston, R.I. (October 8, 2020) – National Education Association Rhode Island (NEARI) President Larry Purtill and NEARI Executive Director Bob Walsh are warning of staffing shortages and calling on Governor Raimondo, the Rhode Island Department of Education, and the Rhode Island Department of Health to evaluate the sustainability of 24-day mandated quarantines. “I’m extremely concerned as we continue the statewide in-person learning experiment that if we do not pause to evaluate how health and safety protocols affect staffing, districts are going to be caught scrambling this winter,” said Purtill. “Governor Raimondo’s focus on low case numbers in school buildings does not take into account the ripple effect of cases within the community when a close contact must quarantine. Viral spread where an educator lives matters and it has a significant impact on staffing.” According to the October 1 version of the Outbreak Response Protocols for K-12, if an educator has a close contact in their household, they must quarantine throughout the case’s isolation period (10 days) and for an additional 14 days. A household contact who has ongoing exposure to the confirmed case is usually quarantined for at least 24 days. Only if the educator develops symptoms and tests positive does their quarantine period decrease in length. “Not only are asymptomatic educators and education support professionals required to quarantine for nearly a month when a family member is positive, many are forced to discharge their sick days before flu season is even upon us,” said Walsh. “Let’s be honest about the K-12 testing sites: they are not turning around results rapidly as promised. Now with a staff shortage already apparent and a first-time positive rate of 6.3%, districts aren’t going to make it to November.” In July, NEARI called on the state to move to distance learning for the fall, in order to focus on health and safety and creative solutions to in-person learning for students with special needs. Now that we are two months into the school year, growing concern for more staff is evident – including the Governor calling on retired teachers to get back into the system for public service and for $90 a day. NEARI is calling on the Governor to do the following: Together with relevant state agencies, district superintendents, classroom educators, and education support professionals, evaluate the consequences of month-long quarantines on staffing before the end of October. Ensure through executive order that mandated quarantines do not draw down on sick days. Ensure through executive order the postponement of teacher evaluations. “It’s nice that the governor suggests folks thank a teacher, but our members are exhausted and stretched thin. The thanks they deserve is assurance from the Governor through executive order that she sees them, they are not expendable, their work is valued, and their health is top priority,” said Purtill.