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Return to School Report # 16 and #17
Return to School Report # 16 and #17
Julie Dorsey
Monday, October 12, 2020

School Report #17

Dear Smithfield Staff and Families,

This 17th edition of the weekly Return to School report includes an update on COVID cases affecting our schools, information about the case investigation process, an update on the virtual tutors, information about out-of-state travel, and general reminders.

Virtual Option Students are not out of COVID-19 Reach

Each week I will report on the COVID cases affecting our school community. This past week, one virtual option student tested positive for the coronavirus. Since the student is learning from home, no other Smithfield students or staff were quarantined.  

A number of other Smithfield students have been tested but tests have come back negative. Nurses are monitoring the prevalence of symptoms that are associated with COVID-19, along with other ailments, including allergies. Even when allergies are suspected, testing provides assurances and peace of mind.  

RIDOH’s Case Investigation Process

At a recent virtual meeting, the Rhode Island Department of Health shared information about their case investigation process, which begins when RIDOH receives a positive COVID-19 lab result directly from the laboratory. At that point, the assigned case investigator calls the infected individual and asks about symptoms, exposures, and activities. From the interview, the case investigator determines close contacts - persons who were within 6 feet of the individual for more than 15 minutes (cumulative) during the infectious period. The infectious period is defined as 2 days before symptom onset or, if asymptomatic, 2 days before the COVID-19 test. 

 

The case investigator informs the infected individual to isolate and calls close contacts to put them in quarantine. They use the term, “isolation” for people who are ill and the term “quarantine” for those who may have been exposed. Isolation lasts for 10 days while quarantine lasts for 14 days because individuals can contract the illness anytime between 2 and 14 days after exposure.  

The case investigator also calls the school principal and/or school nurse and the superintendent. In addition to confirming information provided by a student or their family, they also ask about the individual’s last day in school, whether or not the child is in a stable pod, if there are times when pods mix, and a list of children in the pod. Seating charts for each classroom and the school bus, if applicable, are shared with the case investigator, as well as lists of people (i.e. substitute teachers, paraprofessionals, support staff) who were in the classroom at any time during the infectious period. Other information gathered includes recess supervision, use of the isolation room, before and after school care, athletics, lunch and recess processes, bathroom groups, and other transition times during the school day. For staff members, additional information about lunch arrangements and shared work spaces is provided. Once they’ve done the investigation, they identify the students and staff who may have been exposed, quarantine them, and communicate rules about quarantining.

Virtual Option Tutors

 

Smithfield has hired four virtual tutors to provide daily synchronous ELA and mathematics lessons to elementary students approved for the virtual option. The virtual tutors will “meet” with students for approximately 1 hour per day. The instruction will include math, reading, and writing lessons that correspond with the lessons that are being taught in the classrooms. In addition, virtual tutors will be available for office hours to answer questions and offer help to both students and parents. 

Students will remain on their classroom teacher’s roster and continue to access Google Classroom for science, social studies, and other class lessons. Virtual option students will also continue to receive instruction for their special classes, support from interventionists and have special education services. Classroom teachers will continue to provide feedback on assignments and meet with students on a weekly basis to make any transition to distance learning or in-person instruction easier for both the teacher and students. 

The virtual tutoring began this week in kindergarten with Lauren Tougas. The three additional virtual tutors, Kristen Buckley (Grade 1), Christine Gosselin (Grades 2 and 3), and Rebecca Kelley (Grades 4 and 5), will begin instruction the week of October 19th.

 

Out of State Travel

The guidance for Rhode Islanders returning from travel out of state is available online through the RIDOH website (see link) but is somewhat confusing.  

There are 29 states that currently have a COVID-19 positivity rate of higher than 5%. RIDOH guidance requires a quarantine for 14 days for anyone returning from these states. Due to the governor’s executive order, an exception can be made if you “provide proof of a negative test for COVID-19 that was taken within 72 hours before arriving in Rhode Island.  Quarantining for 14 days is always preferred over relying on a negative test result as quarantining is the best way to limit the possibility of spreading COVID-19.” Those returning from out of the country MUST quarantine for 14 days upon return. 

 The guidance then states, “If you are a returning Rhode Island resident, you can self-schedule an asymptomatic test at a community-based testing location or through portal.ri.gov. It might take several days to receive test results. You must quarantine while waiting for a negative test result.” Obviously, if you are returning and self-schedule an asymptomatic test in RI, this would occur after arriving in Rhode Island and not before.  

 

We rely on the honesty of our families and staff members who may be traveling and cannot logistically police the adherence to these guidelines. We are sure that no one wants to be responsible for causing other members of our community to quarantine or, more importantly, to fall ill. We ask that all members of our school community who return from one of these states to follow the RIDOH recommendations to quarantine for 2 weeks, rather than choosing to test, since testing may not be sufficient to determine if you have contracted the illness during travel. Employees of Smithfield Public Schools who knowingly travel to a state where return to Rhode Island requires a quarantine, prohibiting that person from work responsibilities, may be subject to disciplinary action. If such travel is unavoidable, the employee should seek written approval by the Superintendent in advance of the travel.

 

Reminders

 

Attestation Forms - After an illness, all staff and students are expected to submit an after-illness attestation form. These forms are available online through the RIDOH website (see link) or through our COVID webpage (see red link on the district website).  

Dedicated Testing Centers - See this website - https://health.ri.gov/covid/te... for an overview of when to get a test, what happens on the day of the test, and the locations of the K-12 testing sites. To schedule a test, parents or staff can call: (844) 857 - 1814 - 7 Days a Week: 7:30 AM - 9:30 PM.  

 

Over the past four weeks we have seen a small but steady rise in new cases of COVID-19, from 6 per week to 10, 11, and 14 new cases of COVID-19 this past week. This corresponds to a daily rate of 2 new cases per ~22,000 residents, or 9.2 per 100,000. By working together, we can reduce this number, moving forward. Wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, and avoiding large crowds will reduce our risk of exposure to the coronavirus.

 

Sincerely,

Judy Paolucci, Superintendent

 

 

 

School Report #16

October 2, 2020

Dear Smithfield Staff and Families,

This 16th edition of the weekly Return to School report includes an update on COVID cases affecting our schools, how we are addressing COVID-19 through air circulation, siblings of quarantined students, transportation updates, and reminders about testing and attestation forms.

A Class in Quarantine

Each week I will report on the COVID cases affecting our school community. Quite a few Smithfield students have been tested and thus far, two students have tested positive for the coronavirus since the start of the school year - the SHS student reported last week and an elementary student this week. When we work with the RIDOH for contact tracing, the epidemiologist considers who has been in close contact (less than 6 feet for at least 15 minutes). In the younger grades, students at recess may be in contact with a number of other students - not just the students sitting in close proximity in the classroom. As a result, while the SHS case resulted in four students being quarantined, the entire classroom of elementary students were put into quarantine for two weeks. These students and their families have been notified and will not return to school until after the defined period. Another confirmed case is a contracted service provider who had no contact with other students or staff. Additionally, last night we were informed of an educator at SHS testing positive, resulting in 2 students and 9 staff members being quarantined. There will be cases throughout the year. Our success will be measured by the ability to limit the spread once a case is identified.  

 

Addressing COVID-19 Through Air Circulation

 

Airborne viruses, including the coronavirus, can spread from one person to another in tiny droplets that we release as we breathe. These tiny droplets, or aerosols, have less virus in them than larger droplets caused by sneezing and coughing, so a person would need to inhale large quantities of them to get sick. However, aerosols can accumulate over time in indoor spaces if no effort is made to properly ventilate or filter the air.  

 

We have been employing a 2-fold strategy for increasing the ventilation of our classrooms to reduce the airborne spread of COVID-19. Our HVAC systems, although old, are well maintained and we use the highest grade filter recommended for those particular units. Although not adequate on their own, keeping windows and doors open and employing fans increases the air exchange sufficiently. We have contracted with an engineering firm to inspect and provide recommendations regarding our HVAC and are investigating stand-alone HEPA filtration systems to purchase to augment the HVAC so that the combination of filtration and ventilation achieves the desired result once the cold weather sets in and we no longer can rely on open windows and doors. Additionally, we have purchased carbon dioxide meters to test the resulting air quality. The effectiveness of the room’s ventilation can be measured using a formula that considers the classroom dimensions and number of students and teachers in the room to determine an expected level of carbon dioxide for the desired number of air exchanges to compare with the measured level of carbon dioxide.

 

Siblings of Quarantined Students

 

If a child is sent to the nurse and is presenting symptoms that meet the criteria of a probable case, the school nurse is required to enter the child’s information and presenting symptoms into the RI Department of Health Portal and parents will be provided information to schedule a test. While waiting for test results, the child must isolate at home. Household contacts (roommates are considered household contacts) must quarantine pending the symptomatic person’s COVID-19 test result, therefore, parents must not send a sibling into school and will be called to come and pick them up if they are sent to school. The school requires both the rapid and the non rapid test results prior to a student returning to school. We are asking that all parents email these results to the school nurse. If feasible, it is ideal for each close contact to quarantine in a location separate from the symptomatic person and from other close contacts.

 

Transportation

 

We are finding that some students whose parents have opted out of bus transportation are waiting at bus stops. The bus company creates seating charts that ensure that we are able to identify students needing to be quarantined, if necessary. If parents wish to add their students to the bus lists, this should be done through an email to Karen Boscio, kboscio@smithfield-ps.org. The change will depend upon the availability of bus seats and will be done in as timely a manner as possible.

 

Virtual Option Responsibilities and Support

 

Parents of students, especially young students, in the virtual option have a challenging responsibility to provide the environment and guidance for learning at home. Students may race through posted lessons without the care required to cement the learning into place. Students may also use any extra time in unproductive ways. We are seeing a number of unsupervised students around town during the school day. Parents are reminded that students who are not enrolled in in-school learning should not be on school property during the school day and every effort should be made to ensure safety and supervision. Augmenting the work provided by your child’s teacher can be done through the support of our town libraries who have a variety of print and video resources to lend for free.  

 

 Over the next few weeks we will be introducing elementary students to tutors who will schedule virtual meets to provide direct instruction in math and ELA. Parents will continue to get learning plans from their child’s teacher for other subjects and activities.  

 

Reminders

 

Attestation Forms - After an illness, all staff and students are expected to submit an after-illness attestation form. These forms are available online through the RIDOH website (see link) or through our COVID webpage (see red link on the district website).  

 

Dedicated Testing Centers - See this website - https://health.ri.gov/covid/te... for an overview of when to get a test, what happens on the day of the test, and the locations of the K-12 testing sites. To schedule a test, parents or staff can call: (844) 857 - 1814 - 7 Days a Week: 7:30 AM - 9:30 PM.   

 

Last week, Smithfield had 12 new cases of COVID-19. This corresponds to a daily rate of 1.7 new cases per ~22,000 residents, or 7.9 per 100,000. The governor’s original cutoff was 100 new cases per 100,000 residents. Thanks to the attention and care of every member of our community, this value is relatively low.

 

Sincerely,

 

Judy Paolucci, Superintendent