Dear Smithfield Staff and Families,
This 24th edition of the weekly Return to School report includes our weekly report on COVID cases, siblings, potential new guidelines for quarantines, COVID testing for staff, and general reminders.
A Weekly Report on COVID Cases
The last report, distributed 2 weeks ago, reported that 21 individuals, some of which are virtual option students, were added to our list of members of our school community who tested positive for the coronavirus. In the past 2 weeks, we added another 50, which corresponds to a weekly average of 25. Nineteen cases were from SHS, none were from OCRS, four from LaPerche, twenty from GMS, five from Winsor, and two were from McCabe. This brings our total number of cases to 114 over the first twelve weeks of school. We are hoping that the Thanksgiving holiday does not result in another rash of cases this weekend. The governor’s statewide “pause,” which began on November 30th, may result in a slowdown in additional cases. For another next week, all are asked to limit social gatherings to the number of people you live with. Bar areas, recreational venues, and indoor sports facilities, gyms, and organized sports will be closed. Indoor dining will be limited to 33% capacity with one household per table and retail stores must be limited to one person per 100 square feet.
While siblings of symptomatic students who are awaiting test results should remain at home and should be further quarantined if the test is returned positive, siblings of quarantined students need not quarantine themselves.
New Quarantine Guidelines may be on the Way
The CDC has announced new guidelines for quarantines, however, the Rhode Island Department of Health has yet to make changes to the guidelines expected in the state. Currently, isolation due to having a positive COVID test has a 10-day duration, while quarantines have a 14-day duration. Individuals in a household in which someone has tested positive must quarantine for the full 10 days of the family member’s isolation period plus an additional 14 days in which they may contract the illness. If they, indeed, test positive themselves during this period, they begin an isolation of 10 days, which may end before their original, 24-day quarantine. This can sometimes be confusing to families so we encourage you to reach out to an administrator or school nurse for guidance.
According to CDC guidelines, instead of the standard 14-day quarantine it has been recommending, potential exposure warrants a quarantine of 10 or seven days, depending on one's test results and symptoms. If individuals do not develop symptoms, they need only quarantine for 10 days; if they test negative, that period can be reduced to just one week. We are awaiting word about whether or not the RIDOH will accept these changes. Until that time, quarantine periods will remain at 14 days.
COVID Testing for Staff
Twenty members of the Smithfield Fire Department have completed training for administering COVID tests and the department has offered to conduct tests for town and school staff on a regular basis. The first testing clinic, held at GMS on Thursday, December 3rd, resulted in 25 staff members being tested. Results are then available 24-48 hours after the test. Clinics will be scheduled at our other schools over the next 2 weeks then periodically thereafter. Thank you Smithfield Fire Department! Additionally, both staff and students also can schedule tests at dedicated testing centers listed at https://health.ri.gov/covid/testing/k-12/ . This website also includes an overview of when to get a test and what happens on the day of the test. To schedule a test, parents or staff can call: (844) 857 - 1814 - 7 Days a Week: 7:30 AM - 9:30 PM.
Decisions Regarding Moving to Distance Learning
This past week, we made the decision to move all 6th graders to distance learning. The numbers of staff and students that tested positive or were in quarantine did not allow for in-person learning. Each day, the district struggles with covering classrooms, since the substitute pool is not large enough to accommodate absences. Even if a teacher is teaching from home, an individual is needed in the classroom to supervise students. Anyone interested in serving as a substitute can contact Lisa Petrone at 231-6606 or apply directly on SchoolSpring (www.schoolspring.com/).
We review the situation every day and consider the amount of spread occurring through the school community, the numbers of staff who are out and the availability of substitutes. Each family should make provisionary arrangements for their children’s supervision should a school closure occur.
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).
School Meals - Both breakfast and lunch are free to ALL students and will remain free for the rest of this school year. Although filling out a free and reduced lunch application is not necessary, we urge everyone to do so, since this data contributes to the formula for state aid and Title I funding. For an application, go to this link.
The town of Smithfield saw a steady rise in new cases of COVID-19, from 6 per week in September to 132 new cases two weeks ago, then saw a decrease this past week, to 92. This corresponds to a daily rate of 13.1 new cases per ~22,000 residents, or 62 per 100,000. This data is available at: https://bit.ly/2PxCgDM.
Judy Paolucci, Superintendent