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CRANSTON – Rhode Island’s second-largest school district will move to virtual learning for the rest of 2020 because “we are unable to staff our buildings safely any longer,” according to a letter that went home to parents on Monday.

The letter, from Superintendent Jeannine Nota-Masse and her leadership team, stated that the district will begin virtual learning on Thursday, and continue to keep its 11,000 students home through at least Jan. 4.

“With the inability to consistently and predictably manage our staffing due to positive cases, quarantining, testing time requirements, and just general absenteeism, it is not fair to parents and staff to not know from one day to the next if we can open our schools,” the letter states.

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State officials, led by Governor Gina Raimondo, have so far resisted calls from the state’s two teachers’ unions to close schools for the rest of the 2020-2021 school year, even COVID-19 cases have skyrocketed in recent weeks. Raimondo gave high schools the option to move to virtual learning last month, but she has maintained that elementary and middle schools should be among the last facilities to close.

While Raimondo has argued that schools are not where COVID-19 cases are spreading, school district leaders across the state have voiced concern that it is impractical to keep schools open at a time when teachers, staffers, and students are being forced to quarantine every time they come in close contact with a person who has tested positive for the virus.

Rhode Island leads the country with 110 daily cases per 100,000 people over the last seven days, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Between Friday and Sunday, the state reported more than 3,300 new cases and 29 deaths.

The Cranston letter stated that the district “will assess our situation” before schools are due to reopen in January.

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“We will determine before we reopen in January whether or not we will be reopening in person or whether we will need to continue virtually,” the letter states.


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