August 7, 2020
Dear Smithfield Staff and Families,
Each week, we will be providing a Return to School Committee Report. This 8th edition of the weekly report includes information about athletics, the governor’s decision-making process, the Virtual Option (VO), and updates from the three Return to School sub-committees. We are proud of the governor’s shout out to Smithfield for having an excellent plan but we also know that the work is not yet complete.
The Rhode Island Interscholastic League (RIIL) has been meeting with stakeholders throughout the state to develop plans for school sports for the fall. First, the start date of fall sports will be moved from August 17 to September 14th, allowing for schools and families to adjust to the challenges of reopening this year. The organization has remained consistent in their message that the RIIL will not get ahead of reopening guidance from the Governor. Thus, final plans will not be released until after the governor’s decision about school reopening. In the meantime, coaches have been working to keep students engaged and connected.
Governor’s Decision-Making Process
Governor Raimondo outlined the metrics that she will use to make a decision about what scenario - full return, partial return, or full distance learning - will be employed for the start of the school year. In addition to these metrics, she has pulled together a panel of experts to help make this decision.
Statewide Readiness: Does the state-level data indicate the state should be in phase three or higher?
Municipal Readiness: Do municipal-level case incidence rate indicate it’s safe to fully reopen?
Testing Readiness: Do we have the ability to test all symptomatic staff and students and on average get results within 48 to 72 hours?
Supply Readiness: Does every school have more than sufficient cleaning supplies, soap and hand sanitizer, and face masks?
Operational Readiness: Does every district have a plan that has been vetted by the Rhode Island Department of Education and the Rhode Island Department of Health?
Does every plan include necessary health precautions?
Does every school have a point-person to work with the Rhode Island Department of Education and the Rhode Island Department of Health on testing and contact tracing?
Does every school have health screening protocols in place?
Does every school have a plan to support staff and students if they become ill?
In this week’s report, I’ll focus on Municipal Readiness. The cutoff for the readiness is 100 new cases per 100,000 residents. Smithfield’s population is approximately 21,430. This would correspond to 21-22 new cases of COVID-19. During the week of July 26 - August 1, Smithfield had less than 5 new cases of COVID-19. For the weeks prior and working backwards, we had 8 new cases, 13 new cases, less than 5 new cases, 5 new cases, then 4 weeks with less than 5 new cases. Anytime the number of cases is fewer than 5, it is reported as <5. I will be monitoring this number as we approach the start of the school year. This data is available at: https://bit.ly/2PxCgDM.
The Virtual Option
A little over a week ago the governor announced that districts are able to offer a choice option for families. The choice option is something we have been investigating for a while but found many logistical challenges to overcome. We have set up a registration process for any parents who wish to have their child learn at home if the governor’s decision is for students to return to school buildings. The link to this form is: https://forms.gle/kqw7uHqN538gPiXP6 The virtual option is different from the full distance learning program primarily because in the full distance learning program, teachers teach students through a virtual classroom exclusively. With the virtual option, teachers have both the responsibility for their in-person students and the students who are learning from home. Frequently asked questions (FAQs) are available on this link: https://bit.ly/3ie0P4L
Update from the Subcommittees
Leadership and Communications Subcommittee
The Leadership and Communications Subcommittee hosted a well-attended, second Parent Forum on August 6th. We thank everyone who participated and extend apologies for anyone who was unable to sign on due to the limits of our license. If you missed the parent forum, you can view the video on this link: https://bit.ly/forum-8-6 We appreciate the great questions asked and the ideas shared.
We will continue our weekly updates and positive messaging to all stakeholders. Students at SHS will be creating videos to teach good practices to their peers. We also will stay up to date with new information. A new email account, email@example.com will be set up by Tuesday to provide parents with a way to ask questions and 2-3 members of our team will monitor the emails and answer any questions promptly.
Bus routes are still being set up but we expect to be able to send information to individual families about transportation details in the next week.
Instructional Core and Social-Emotional Learning Subcommittee
The Instructional Core and Social-Emotional Learning Subcommittee will continue to work on the virtual option. Additionally, the group is working on best practices for specific subject areas. Despite this report only having 2 sentences, both tasks are labor-intensive.
Operations and Resources Subcommittee
The Operations and Resources Subcommittee continued with PPE purchasing and are waiting to hear from the state on what free materials will be available. Devices (Chromebooks) are being moved to individual schools to be distributed with materials at each location. We are working on coordinating among the schools so that families won't have to go to more than one school to pick up materials. Isolation rooms are all set at every school. Room organization should be finished today (depending on construction). We continue to discuss how classrooms will be cleaned between use by different groups and ordered spray bottles for each classroom as part of this goal. The subcommittee held another meeting with Chartwells to discuss meal service and will meet again with them on the 19th. The group is also researching air purifiers for all the clinics. Next, signs will be installed in all buildings and final decisions will be made on air purifiers and any other PPE needed for the district.
Enjoy the weekend!
Judy Paolucci, Superintendent
and Members of the Return to School Committee