First day of distance learning in R.I. schools gets mixed reviews

Cam Eaton, 9, works on a Chromebook in his home after his school in New Rochelle, New York was closed due to concerns over COVID-19.
Cam Eaton, 9, works on a Chromebook in his home after his school in New Rochelle, New York was closed due to concerns over COVID-19.John Moore/Getty I

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Happy Tuesday and welcome to Rhode Map, your daily guide to everything happening in the Ocean State. I'm Dan McGowan and I strongly believe NBA 2K should be an Olympic sport. Follow me on Twitter @DanMcGowan or send tips to Dan.McGowan@globe.com.

Let’s start with the numbers: We know there were 106 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Rhode Island as of Monday, with 3,000 people in self-quarantine. There were 77 tests pending, and 1,120 tests came back negative. The state has just over a million people.


School was back in session for most public school students on Monday, but all of the learning happened remotely as a result of the contagious virus that is spreading across the state.

So how did it go?

Rhode Map asked a group of parents and school leaders from around the state to offer a few thoughts on day one of distance learning.

Ramona Santos

Providence parent (middle)

The first day of distance learning went relatively well for me as an English-speaking parent who has access and knows how to navigate technology somewhat well. On the other hand, I spent most of the day supporting Spanish-speaking parents who were struggling with navigating technology and could not follow up with their child’s work because of the language barrier. I believe everyone is trying to get the best out of an almost impossible situation and that we all must be patient and work collaboratively and together.

But I will say this: Families of multilingual-language students, students receiving special education services, and those with 504 plans need to be supported in a much more structured way than what I experienced today. I am glad Providence created a hotline where families can call and get guidance regarding the issues that they will be experiencing in the upcoming weeks.


Kristen Lage

Warwick parent (elementary)

Day 1: The kids gave it an 8 out of 10.

Pros: Google Classroom was easy to navigate, and a virtual greeting from the teacher and principal was a nice start to the day. The kids miss their classmates and teachers, so this was a nice way to ease any anxiety and also spark some excitement!

Cons: Indoor recess wasn’t a big hit and neither was the overabundance of vegetables served with lunch.

Jennifer Berrio-Ortiz

Providence parent (K-12 charter)

My son is a sixth grader that had already been using ClassDojo and Google Classroom. His teacher extended Google Classroom to the parents so we can be informed as well. The kids were given a Google phone number if they needed to call her. She invited me this morning and sent the code. Throughout the day she sent several messages to the kids. I feel it went very well for being the first day.

Suzanne Da Silva Jerzyk

Cranston parent & teacher

Today was a struggle for me personally; that struggle to find balance between our work responsibilities and the needs of our children. Yet, we have advantages that most families take for granted. As I sat and worked through my day on Google Classroom answering a myriad of questions from both students and parents, this thought was not lost on me as an urban educator. I see the inequity every day.


Today was not perfect. There were many moments of student and parent frustration, but there were also those little victories of a student working through a problem or simply installing a google app correctly and it actually worked! I had 18 out of 19 students logged in and that was a cause for celebration! I also know that every day we will probably have some stumbling blocks, but we shall pick ourselves back up and do it again.

Jeremy Chiappetta

Blackstone Valley Prep – CEO

With dozens of “Zoom” lessons and hundreds of Google Classroom entries, our faculty, staff, and scholars were working incredibly hard on day one of distance learning. Moreover, we held more than a thousand family meetings. While so much of the learning was truly amazing today, we also heard from families in deep crises: from financial woes to emotional challenges, from fears of finding their next meal to family health scares. And through it all, there is a tremendous sense of hope. We got this.

Jeannine Nota-Masse

Cranston superintendent

The first day went well for Cranston Public Schools. We distributed about 1,200 Chromebooks and about 90 percent of our students made contact with their teachers. While not being in school has saddened many of our students and staff, virtual learning has been a great way for us to connect with each other. It’s not going to be perfect right away, but it brings some semblance of normalcy to all of us during this uncertain time.



Rhode Map wants to hear from you. If you've got a scoop or a link to an interesting news story in Rhode Island, e-mail us at RInews@globe.com.


Each day, Rhode Map offers a cheat sheet breaking down what's happening in Rhode Island. Have an idea? E-mail us at RInews@globe.com.

  • Governor Raimondo’s daily press conference is at 1 p.m.
  • Starting today, anyone who flies into T.F. Green is required to self-quarantine for 14 days.
  • Today at 9 a.m., there’s a free virtual panel that will discuss whether Rhode Island has the network infrastructure in place for more people to work from home.
  • The state Council on Postsecondary Education will meet virtually tonight to discuss the impact of the coronavirus on Rhode Island’s three public colleges.
  • Enjoying Rhode Map? Do us a favor and encourage your friends to sign up here.

Thanks for reading. Send comments and suggestions to dan.mcgowan@globe.com, or follow me on Twitter @DanMcGowan. See you this afternoon.

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Dan McGowan can be reached at dan.mcgowan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @danmcgowan.