To read all of the Back To School Reports from the 2021-2022 school year, please visit this link.
Back to School Report #25 and a Half
March 6, 2022
Dear Smithfield Staff and Families,
This 25th-and-a-half edition of the Back to School report includes updates on masks on buses and testing as well as information about our Endemic Response Team.
No Requirements for Masks on Buses
At some point, the information coming from the CDC and the US Department of Transportation were inconsistent; the CDC had dropped its recommendation for masking on buses but the US Department of Transportation had included buses for mask requirements that were set to expire on March 18th. At this time, both agencies have ended their requirements for masking on school buses. In response, we will no longer require masks on school buses.
The school department will continue to offer COVID testing for students and staff who have submitted signed consent forms. At any time, families or staff may opt to take advantage of this program. Moving forward, each person who participates in this testing will be entered into a drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card. We will no longer be requiring testing for athletes or for those attending social events, such as the winter ball.
Endemic Response Team
While we are pleased to be able to return to pre-pandemic practices, we know that other variants may emerge or completely different viruses may pose a future health risk. School districts have been preparing plans to address health and other safety issues long before the start of this pandemic. We have a food defense plan and an active shooter plan. In addition, we hold fire drills, shelter-in-place drills, and other drills. We hold vision, dental, and hearing screenings. In short, while our primary mission is to educate, we address the needs of the whole child and know that mental and physical health affect learning. With this in mind, we have convened an endemic response team to review the plans previously put in place for the pandemic and to make recommendations about continued monitoring of cases, cleaning protocols, testing protocols, and to think through what levels of virus transmission may trigger additional mitigation measures. I anticipate that the team will meet over the next month before putting forward a plan for School Committee approval. Interim decisions will be made along the way and will be communicated through our weekly Back to School Reports.
Judy Paolucci, Superintendent
Back to School report #25
March 4, 2022
Dear Smithfield Staff and Families,
This 25th edition of the Back to School report includes our weekly report on COVID cases, masks, personal responsibility, contact tracing, other mitigation strategies, and town data.
A Weekly Report on COVID Cases
Since our last report on February 18th, we have had an additional 17 confirmed COVID cases. This brings our total since our school year began to 889 cases. There were 2 cases identified at SHS, 6 cases identified at Gallagher, 7 cases at Pleasant View Elementary, 1 case at LaPerche Elementary and 0 cases at Old County Road Elementary. There was also one case at our School Administration Building. This continues to be a dramatic decrease from the prior weeks.
Masks Become Optional
The statewide mask requirement for public K-12 schools [Executive Order 21-87] is slated to end after 5 p.m. on March 4, 2022. The federal order requiring masking on public transportation, including school buses, expires on March 18, 2022 but may be extended by the federal government. In the absence of a mandate, the District’s policy is to allow parents to make the decision regarding whether or not their child should wear a mask. Therefore, all Smithfield students should wear a mask on school buses but may remove their masks while in school buildings.
As we make the shift from mandates, we shift toward personal responsibility. Personal responsibility means that people should follow public health guidance and:
• Stay home if they have any symptoms of COVID-19, get tested, and consult a healthcare provider;
• Notify their close contacts if they test positive for COVID-19; and
• Determine when they should wear a well-fitting mask around others.
National experts and public health organizations agree that we should transition away from universal contact tracing and implement a targeted approach based on updated data and understanding of COVID-19. Therefore, RIDOH no longer recommends that schools conduct contact tracing. RIDOH will continue to prioritize outbreak detection and response in pre K-12 school settings. RIDOH recommends that schools:
Limit contact tracing efforts in schools, and
Consider everyone in the same classroom/group with someone who tests positive for COVID-19 to be exposed; and
Notify students, families/guardians of the exposure; and
Notify RIDOH when there are outbreaks.
Other Mitigation Strategies
Schools have been relatively safe places over the course of the pandemic, due to the layering of a number of mitigation strategies. As masks become optional, we are hoping to keep the number of cases in our schools low by continuing to advocate for other practices, such as:
Promoting vaccination (Vaccination remains the most powerful strategy to keep children and families healthy and students learning and involved in extracurricular activities in person. Find more information at C19vaccineRI.org.)
Promoting hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette
Recommending continued use of masks, especially for those that are not up to date with their vaccines or are immunocompromised
Screening for symptoms and staying home when sick
Continue to offer screening testing
Voluntary COVID Testing
We are continuing to offer voluntary COVID testing to students and staff with consent. Moving forward, each person who participates in this testing will be entered into a drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card.
The number of weekly new cases in Smithfield has dropped each week since the start of the new year. The weekly number for the week ending February 26th fell to 24 cases, from 40 the week prior. The number of cases in the state has also decreased to 1684 cases for that same week. The town rate corresponds to a weekly rate of 181 new cases per 100,000 residents. This rate is still above the threshold at which the CDC classifies a high rate of transmission (greater than 100 cases/100,000 residents) but at this rate of decline, we are anticipating a return to more normal conditions. This data is available at https://bit.ly/2PxCgDM.
Judy Paolucci, Superintendent