Gov. signs order to alleviate substitute teacher shortage

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Gov. Gina Raimondo has signed an order allowing retired teachers to return to the classroom while continuing to collect their full pension, a move meant to help alleviate a shortage of substitutes exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

The pandemic led many teachers to retire or work remotely because of health protocols. In the fall, the state started a substitute teacher recruitment program and called on retirees to resume teaching.

The order signed Dec. 30 waives the existing requirement that retired teachers' state pensions be paused if they work for more than 90 days in the year.

State Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green told WPRI-TV on Tuesday the pension pause was a “barrier” to getting retirees to return to the classroom.

“If you’re a retired teacher, please come join us,” Infante-Green said. “We need you now, and there will not be any penalty.”

The order requires school districts to inform the Employees’ Retirement System of Rhode Island that a retiree is needed because of the pandemic and is not being employed past June 25.

Under the order, any retired teaching or administrative staff hired by a school district will not be entitled to additional retirement.

___

POSITIVE TRENDS

Rhode Island's post-holiday coronavirus surge appears to be easing as the state's seven-day positivity rate and the seven-day average of daily new cases are both on the decline.

The state Department of Health on Wednesday reported 722 new confirmed cases and 13 more virus-related fatalities, for totals of almost 108,000 confirmed cases and 2,058 deaths in the state.

The latest seven-day average positivity rate in Rhode Island is 4.8%, down from almost 7.2% on Jan. 5. State health departments are calculating positivity rate differently across the country, but for Rhode Island the AP calculates the rate by dividing new cases by test encounters using data from The COVID Tracking Project.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Rhode Island has dropped from 1,009 on Jan. 5 to 810 on Tuesday, according to The COVID Tracking Project.

More than 49,000 Rhode Islanders have now received their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine and nearly 12,000 have received their second dose, the state said.