Return to School Report #2-June 28, 2020

June 28, 2020

Dear Smithfield Staff and Families,

Each week, we will be providing a Return to School Committee Report. This 2nd edition of the weekly report includes the district’s Vision and Guiding Principles for a #safeandsuccessful  return to school, an update on steps the district is taking to meet RIDE’s guidance on bus transportation, and updates from the three Return to School subcommittees.

Vision and Guiding Principles

Our vision: During the 2020-2021 school year, we will maintain the district promise: Every child will be prepared for continued learning, career, and life, by providing quality instructional experiences to students under a variety of potential conditions and ensuring both students and staff support. #safeandsuccessful

To support all stakeholders in reopening schools, Smithfield Public Schools will follow seven guiding principles for the planning, decision-making, and execution of returning to school

1) We will put safety first. 

We will leverage science, data, and public health leadership to inform the choices we make. 

2) We will be transparent. 

We will share what we know and what we do not know. We will be clear about what we can control and what is outside of our control. 

3) We will be equitable. 

We will center decisions on what is best for all students, families, and educators, especially those most impacted by educational inequities and COVID-19. We will remember that equitable does not mean equal, and we will strive to give students, families, and educators what they need, knowing that our families have been hit by the virus at different magnitudes. 

4) We will listen. 

We will bring together diverse stakeholders and experts to understand the realities on the ground and develop and share creative solutions. 

5) We will be decisive. 

Given the size and scope of the challenge, we must move deliberately and make tough choices. 

6) We will be agile.

We will anticipate changing conditions and changing student and community needs. We will need to be flexible and nimble, and we will adapt quickly as variables on the ground change. 

7) We will have high expectations for both staff and students.

We will not use the challenges of COVID-19 as an excuse for low expectations, poor service, and low performance. Instead, we will continue on our path of continuous improvement, which began with our Future Search, held in 2018.

Bus Transportation

RIDE guidance for both full and partial in-school attendance provides for between 33 and 50% bus capacity. In order to meet this expectation, we are reviewing our walk zone areas and will also be asking parents to register for bus transportation later in July or early in August. Those students who were picked up at bus stops within 1 mile from an elementary school or 2 miles from the middle or high school may become walkers this coming school year. Individual families will be notified in late July or early August with more information about the walk zones and how those zones will impact bus transportation.

Update from the Subcommittees

Leadership and Communications Subcommittee

The Leadership and Communications Subcommittee created the Superintendent’s Message and the Vision and Guiding Principles for returning to school in the fall. Both are required components of the plan due to RIDE on July 17th.  The subcommittee organized two staff forums this week to provide staff members with an opportunity to share their concerns and ideas about returning to school in the fall, reviewed data from the parent forum and reviewed staff survey data.  Members of the subcommittee are responsible for assembling the weekly Return to School Report for families and staff and for coordinating the work of all subgroups. 

On the next page is a word cloud illustrating the thoughts that staff shared during the two forums.

There will be additional opportunities over the coming weeks for both parents and staff members to share their thoughts and concerns about some specific aspects of the plan.

Finally, support from District Management Group ( to Rhode Island school districts around our return to school planning will begin this week.

Instructional Core and Social-Emotional Learning Subcommittee

The Instructional Core and Social-Emotional Learning Subcommittee finalized drafts of schedules for Virtual Learning 2.0, taking into account feedback from Smithfield families through both the RIDE survey and the parent forum. Based on this feedback, the schedules will include the addition of “office hours” to ensure that teachers are accessible to students and families for support. The schedules will also include time for teachers to meet with small groups of students on a consistent basis, create smaller virtual class sizes for the elementary special subjects (art, library, music, P.E.), and standardize the use of daily and weekly schedule templates to clarify organization for students and families.

The subcommittee also discussed the role of paraprofessionals and support professionals and how each school can more effectively utilize these crucial staff members during virtual learning.  The members of the subcommittee are reaching out to staff to get feedback on these ideas.

The subcommittee is currently devising schedules for limited in-person learning, partial in-person learning, and full in-person learning scenarios listed in the RIDE Back to School Guidance that was published on June 19th.

Operations and Resources Subcommittee

The Operations and Resources Subcommittee completed an inventory of cleaning/disinfecting supplies and calculated estimates on the cleaning/disinfecting supplies the district will need for the upcoming school year. The subcommittee also developed cleaning protocols to be used. Some Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has also been purchased and the subcommittee will continue to place orders to obtain PPE for the opening of school.

Model classrooms were set up at SHS, GMS, and Winsor to maximize distances between students.  The guidance suggests 6’, however, depending upon the classroom size, model classrooms had between 5 and 5.5 feet between students.  In order to maximize this distance, some classroom furniture had to be removed.  Administrators will be working with teachers to remove some classroom furniture and organize space to reduce risk of virus spread.