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.
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.
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.
Judy Paolucci, Superintendent