On the eve of Toll Gate students and faculty returning to classes, the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) issued a response to Superintendent Philip Thornton’s request to allow five days out of classes. Wednesday afternoon, RIDE Commissioner of Education Angelica Infante-Green issued a release that the department will only allow up to two of those days to count toward the academic calendar.
On Feb. 8, a metal plug popped off the school’s water back flow preventer, causing a flood of one or two inches throughout the cafeteria, auditorium ramp, lower-level hallways and a few classrooms. The water was swiftly mopped up, but as some of it seeped into the cracked tiles, it pushed them up. Those tiles, installed in the early 1970s when the school opened, contained traces of asbestos, but was not deemed to be harmful. That was, until the water got to them.
The school administration sent the waiver request to the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) asking for all five days to count toward their academic calendar. For the five days, classes were in session just not physically conducted at the school. Students and teachers were able to have classes over Google Classroom and each student has a Chromebook to use for those online assignments.
Thornton said that the school administrations would look at the schedule Thursday morning to see how they could remain on track with the remainder of the school year including Toll Gate graduation slated for June 3.
Aside from the new scheduling dilemma, the school has reopened exactly as planned. Superintendent Thornton said back on Feb. 10 that the school would work to be open for classes on Thursday, Feb. 20. Over the past few weeks, even through the weekend and holiday, school staff and an outside company removed the old tiles and replaced them with new ones. On Wednesday, Thornton said they are prepared for school to open for Thursday.
“We are ready to go,” he said.
Aside from the tiles, the water soaked the bottom few inches of drywall on the classroom side of Toll Gate’s lower building and had to be removed. Thornton said that some classrooms may be without that drywall for a few days, but it won’t interrupt classes. The superintendent also said that the school’s Promethean Boards, used for interactive teaching, won’t be re-installed until around Friday.