Dear Staff and Families,
Yesterday, the Rhode Island Department of Education announced changes to the statewide school calendar that provides for 3 days of distance learning following the holiday break. RIDE also is allowing districts to stagger the in-person return dates of its students over the remainder of that week and the week following, through the 15th of January.
Several challenges require that we take some time to develop a plan that will best meet the needs of our school community. First, the numbers of COVID cases in each community in our state vary considerably; an increase in rates in Smithfield, should they occur, may warrant a more conservative approach. Second, many of our staff live in other towns that have decided to employ distance learning on some or all of those dates, prohibiting staff from working in person. With our substitute pool being insufficient, we must consider whether or not we have enough staff to ensure a safe and productive learning environment. Most importantly, we must consider what is in the best interest of students’ physical and mental health.
While details of the plan are being worked out, I know that working parents will need to arrange for the supervision of their children, should there be distance learning days. At this time, I am planning to recommend to the School Committee that students in all grades will engage in distance learning during the week of January 4th. This recommendation will be discussed at their meeting on December 21st. Unless COVID cases rise significantly over the next few weeks, our preliminary plan is to return all students to in-person instruction (hybrid for grades 7-12), beginning on January 11th.
If we have a snow day on Thursday, all students will be expected to participate in distance learning, rather than to make up the day at the end of the school year. For our middle and high school students, Thursday will look much like Wednesday or Friday. Elementary students will be taking their Chromebooks and other materials home on Wednesday. If they return to in-person learning on Friday, the Chromebooks can stay home in preparation for distance learning days next week and the week following the holiday break. We will monitor the weather forecast throughout the day tomorrow and will make a decision about Thursday as early as possible.
Principals will share additional information that is relevant to their grades and I will share an update on the district plan over the course of the next week. You will also be receiving a survey link soliciting your feedback about various aspects of our plan. While we know that we cannot please everyone, our goal is to best meet the needs of our students, staff, and families.