Dear Smithfield Staff and Families,
Each week, we will be providing a Return to School Committee Report. This 10th edition of the weekly report includes information about the revised school calendar, special education FAQs, and updates from the three Return to School sub-committees.
Revised School Calendar
On August 12th, Governor Raimondo announced a delay to the start of the school year. Teachers will now have three additional days of training, beginning on September 9th, while the first day for students will be September 14th. In Smithfield, two days of orientation and professional development are scheduled for August 26th and 27th. In the original statewide school calendar two additional holidays were scheduled. Later, the state indicated that these days were optional. Recognizing that we are able to accommodate members of our school community who recognize these Jewish and Muslim holidays, we have decided to schedule school on these two days, enabling the end of the year to be June 23rd instead of June 25th.
The final announcement about whether it’s safe for districts to reopen in person is expected the week of August 31st, instead of August 17th, leaving fewer days between the announcement and the start date. This is particularly challenging, since until that time, we are planning for all three scenarios. The entire calendar is available on our website.
Special Education FAQs
IEP services will be delivered within the general education setting when possible to ensure consistent stable pods of students. However, to safely meet the needs of students that require small group instruction, groupings will be consistent and staff will follow universal precautions, including wearing a mask, social distancing when possible, and washing hands and cleaning surfaces and materials between services. Students will be expected to wear masks and sanitize or wash hands before entering the small group workspace and again when leaving the small group workspace to return to the general education classroom. To learn how we are addressing other needs for our special populations, refer to our new Special Education Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) document, now available on a link on our COVID-19 page.
Update from the Subcommittees
Leadership and Communications Subcommittee
Parent Forums were held for 5 of the 6 district schools. The parent forum for LaPerche will be held this coming Tuesday, Aug 25, 2020 at 7:00 PM. Principals are posting information from these forums on their websites.
This week, students at SHS created videos to teach good practices to their peers. The principals of other district schools are working on similar projects. We are also staying up-to-date with new information. Parents have been using our new email account, firstname.lastname@example.org to ask questions, which have been answered promptly.
We held the first of two School Committee meetings at which we are walking through 4 of our 6 schools to show the School Committee and Town Council how classrooms have been set up and what procedures will be in place for the start of the school year. This first walkthrough started at Winsor then proceeded to Gallagher Middle School. Channel 10 reported on the meeting. The second meeting, held this coming Thursday at 7:30am, will start at McCabe then end at Smithfield High School. The public is welcome to join the meeting by dialing in using their phone (1 877 309 2073, Access Code: 311-402-893) or by this link: https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/311402893. Additionally, a more polished video will be posted by each principal.
Instructional Core and Social-Emotional Learning Subcommittee
The Instructional Core/SEL subcommittee continues to work on specific processes for a variety of subject areas and needs. A number of new technology resources have been investigated. When looking at any online instructional materials and programs, the first consideration is for student safety. We are dedicated to providing safe learning environments for students in our physical classrooms AND safe learning environments while online.
Music education is particularly challenging during a pandemic, since singing and playing wind instruments spreads droplets that may contain the coronavirus. One new program purchased for the upcoming school year for music classes allows students to not only record their at-home instrumental practice, but also receive immediate feedback by showing them which notes and rhythms they played either correctly or incorrectly. Students can playback their recording for immediate feedback and teachers can listen to individual students to track progress and learning. Secondary students with A-Day, B-Day schedules will be limited to at home practice while in-school days will be instructional.
Also in this area, we are organizing the opening and training days scheduled for the next two weeks. The extra three days on September 9, 10, 11 will provide time for teachers to develop plans and procedures specifically for addressing both in-person and online learning.
Operations and Resources Subcommittee
Signage has been installed in the buildings and directional stickers laid out on floors at 6 foot intervals. We continue to work with our food service company, Chartwells, on protocols for meal service for virtual and A/B days. We picked up free materials, including digital thermometers, distributed by the state. Due to construction, final set ups of classrooms in elementary schools are not yet complete.
We continually work with our bus company to update bus lists as families make changes to their decision about the virtual option. Letters are being sent to families in the walk zone so that parents can make appropriate plans for transportation to school. We continue to investigate tools that will help us reduce the risk of virus exposure, including uv disinfection lights.
Applications for funding from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) and the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) are being completed. ESSER awards allow defined expenditures beginning March 13, 2020 through September 30, 2022. The amount of funding is equal to the reduction in state aid received by Smithfield FY 2020 and provides for some of these funds to be distributed to non-public schools. Expenditures from the CRF may begin on March 1, 2020 through December 30, 2020 and are generally intended to provide funding for costs associated with reopening schools this fall.
Last week, Smithfield had 8 new cases of COVID-19. This corresponds to a daily rate of 1.14 new cases per ~22,000 residents, or 5.3 per 100,000. The governor’s cutoff is 100 new cases per 100,000 residents. I will be monitoring this number as we approach the start of the school year. This data is available at: https://bit.ly/2PxCgDM.
Our principals are posting specific information about their schools, which you may find helpful. We are a little over a week away from the governor’s decision and we look forward to beginning the school year in whatever scenario is chosen. We miss our students!
Judy Paolucci, Superintendent
and Members of the Return to School Committee