November 20, 2020
Dear Smithfield Staff and Families,
This 23rd edition of the weekly Return to School report includes our weekly report on COVID cases, high school programming, the roles of the district and RIDOH during case investigation, updates on winter athletics, and general reminders.
A Weekly Report on COVID Cases
Since my last report, 21 individuals were added to our list of members of our school community who tested positive for the coronavirus. About half of these cases required additional quarantines. Six cases were from SHS, two from OCRS, two from LaPerche, six from GMS, two from Winsor, and three were from McCabe. This brings our total number of cases to 64 over the first ten weeks of school. The numbers are multiplying, leading to the governor’s call for a statewide “pause.” The pause, to begin on November 30th, includes limiting social gatherings to the number of people you live with; closing bar areas, recreational venues, and indoor sports facilities, gyms, and organized sports; limiting indoor dining to 33% capacity with one household per table; restricting retail stores to one person per 100 square feet; and limiting houses of worship to 25% capacity with a maximum of 125 people.
No Changes to Programming at Smithfield High School
At this week’s press conference, the governor provided districts with an option to begin implementation of limited, in-person programming. Such programming would allow for English language learners, students with IEPs, and at-risk students to attend school in person while providing virtual instruction to others. Following the governor’s announcement, school and district administrators met to discuss the benefits and drawbacks of changes to the current programming at Smithfield High School and a decision was made to remain in the current model.
If additional cases cause quarantines of staff such that continued operation of the school is compromised, a decision may be made to close the school at that time. At the present time, conditions allow for continued operation of the school in the hybrid model.
While no change is currently proposed, the high school leadership spent time this week working through details about which students would continue with in-person instruction and how teachers would be delivering virtual instruction to all other students, should a decision be made at a later date to move to the limited, in-person model. Our goal is to be as prepared as possible for changes that may come about through changing conditions from the pandemic.
The Roles of the District and RIDOH During Case Investigation
The process for case investigations has changed, giving greater responsibility to the district for identifying close contacts. These changes were made in response to growing numbers of positive cases and a gap between test results and quarantine lists.
We ask that all parents and staff contact the district as soon as notification of a positive test result is made. We immediately call RIDOH to inform them of the case and begin to collect information necessary to identify close contacts in the school environment. This information includes bus and classroom seating charts, athletic participation, and lunch details. Sometimes, no data is necessary, as the student or staff member may not have been at school during the infectious period, which begins 2 days prior to the start of symptoms for symptomatic individuals or 2 days prior to the test administration for asymptomatic individuals.
District staff may also need to interview staff and students to determine whether or not there was close contact with the infected individual for 15 or more minutes. Contact information for all potential close contacts are provided to the RIDOH staff through a spreadsheet.
In anticipation of quarantining by the RIDOH, district staff will call individuals listed on the spreadsheet and have them begin their quarantines. RIDOH staff confirm close contact lists, sometimes making changes as new information is learned. The goal of RIDOH is to call all those on the close contact list and provide information about quarantining.
This new process speeds up the notification of individuals that need to quarantine and allows our staff to communicate with the entire school community in a more timely manner.
Updates on Winter Athletics
Sports will take a pause, with no organized sports allowable until January.
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/testing/k-12/ 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.
School Meals - Both breakfast and lunch are free to ALL students.
Over the past 3 months, the town of Smithfield has seen a steady rise in new cases of COVID-19, from 6 per week in September to 114 new cases last week, rising from 55 the week before. This corresponds to a daily rate of 16.3 new cases per ~22,000 residents, or 76.9 per 100,000. This data is available at: https://bit.ly/2PxCgDM.
Judy Paolucci, Superintendent
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