Dear Smithfield Staff and Families,
This 26th edition of the weekly Return to School report includes our weekly report on COVID cases, the value of asymptomatic testing, rules for attending school and for returning after an illness, school meals, and town data.
A Weekly Report on COVID Cases
This past week, another 17 staff and students tested positive. Six cases were from SHS; five were from OCRS; five were from GMS; one was from Winsor; and no additional cases were from McCabe, Winsor, or LaPerche. This brings our total number of cases to 158 since the start of the school year. I’m hoping that we will continue to get reports of all new cases over the break so that we can continue to report on the total number of cases.
The drop in weekly cases was encouraging. Let’s all do our best to keep our holidays shiny and bright while also observing social distancing. We want 2021 to look better than 2020!
School Programming for January 4-8 and 11-15
On December 14th, the Rhode Island Department of Education announced changes to the statewide school calendar that provides for 3 days of distance learning (January 4, 5, and 6) 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.
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.
The Value of Regular, COVID Testing
The Smithfield Fire Department has been doing voluntary testing for our staff and the testing has resulted in four staff members - all asymptomatic - testing positive. The value of testing is to identify such individuals so that they can isolate themselves, reducing the potential exposure of others. At a recent meeting with the RIDOH, we learned that 25% of all school cases are asymptomatic at the time of testing. Forty-two percent of K12 quarantined staff and students are being tested within 14 days of exposure and of that 42%, 3.6% test positive. RIDOH recommends testing for quarantined individuals on day 5 or later.
The governor has announced that regular testing will soon be available to Rhode Island schools. We have expressed interest in this testing and are awaiting details about this testing.
Rules for Attending School and for Returning After an Illness
The RIDOH reported that as many as 25% of positive cases for school-aged children were for children that attended school while having symptom(s). We remind all parents that children with one or more symptoms should not attend school. While this is an inconvenience, it is an inconvenience for many if quarantines result from the child’s attendance at school while sick.
When returning to school after an illness, parents are required to submit an attestation form, available on the RIDOH website (see link) or on our COVID webpage (red link on the district website).
All Smithfield students will be engaged in distance learning from December 21st through the 23rd, will be on vacation from the 24th through January 3rd then will be on distance learning again following the holiday break. All students can receive free meals, which can be picked up at SHS door #2 from 11 am to 12 noon. Meals are available on school days as well as during holiday periods, however, we ask that those wishing to pick up meals for the break sign up in advance so that an appropriate number of meals can be prepared.
To participate in the free meals during the holiday break, please send your family’s name and the number of children to Lori.Richard@compass-usa.com as soon as possible. The first of the two multiple-meal pickup opportunities will occur on December 23rd and will include breakfast for December 24-29 and lunch for December 23-28. Another multiple-meal pick-up will take place on Tuesday, December 29th and will include breakfast for December 30 and 31 and January 1, 2, 3, and 4, as well as lunch for December 29, 30, 31, and January 1, 2, and 3.
The town of Smithfield saw a steady rise in new cases of COVID-19, from 6 per week in September to 171 two weeks ago then down to 143 this past week. This corresponds to a daily rate of 20.4 new cases per ~22,000 residents or 96.5 per 100,000. This data is available at https://bit.ly/2PxCgDM.
Judy Paolucci, Superintendent