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Return to School Report #32
Return to School Report #32
Judith Paolucci
Friday, February 12, 2021

Dear Smithfield Staff and Families,

This 32nd edition of the Return to School report includes our weekly report on COVID cases, an update on hybrid programming, mental health resources, and town data. 

A Weekly Report on COVID Cases

This past week numbers continued to drop, with only 5 new COVID cases reported in our school community, down from 8, 19, 22, and 28 over the past 4 weeks.  Two cases were from McCabe, one was from SHS, one was from Winsor, one from OCRS, and no cases were reported for GMS and LaPerche. This brings our total number of cases to 277 since the start of the school year.  Please remain vigilant during the vacation week so that we can return to safe conditions!

Update on Hybrid Programming

In grades 7-12, Smithfield students attend school in-person every-other-day and work from home on alternate days. Ideally, teachers plan lessons that keep pace with the curriculum by concentrating direct instruction on in-person days and practice and reinforcement on virtual days. The success of this model is dependent on the engagement of students on virtual days, since disengagement is equivalent to being absent 50% of the time. Both parents and teachers are challenged to ensure that students meet expectations and all look forward to a return to full, in-person instruction.

Some have asked if the return to full, in-person instruction is possible this year.  We certainly have not ruled it out. Below are two of our most significant challenges:

Transportation - The state has not changed its guidelines for bus transportation and, until then, we do not have the capacity to transport all grade 7-12 students needing bus transportation to school. If we were to allow any student who can find their own transportation to school to attend school 5-days per week, an inequity would result between families who can or cannot transport their children to school.  

Hallway and Classroom Density - Bigger kids take up more space.  We have spaced out desks to the fullest extent possible and adding more students to classrooms would naturally decrease the space between students, allowing the virus to spread more easily and resulting in more frequent and larger quarantines.  

Despite these challenges, we are not committed to the hybrid model for the full year and, if guidelines change or if warmer weather brings new options, we will review our programming and make adjustments accordingly.

Mental Health Resources

The pandemic has taken a toll on the mental health of children and adults alike. Our schools have staff that are able to help students experiencing anxiety or depression.  Contact your child’s principal if you are concerned and believe that your child needs our help.  In addition, RIDE maintains a resource page for mental health related to COVID: https://www.ride.ri.gov/Studen...

Kids’ Link RI™ is a behavioral health triage service and referral network. A program offered in collaboration with Gateway Healthcare, Lifespan, Hasbro Children's Hospital and Bradley Hospital, Kids’ Link RI is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to help triage children and youth in need of mental health services and refer them to treatment providers. To contact Kids' Link RI, call 1-855-543-5465.

Town Data

The number of new cases of COVID in the town of Smithfield dropped to its lowest since the beginning of November.  Sixty-eight (68) new cases were reported last week, down from a high of 144 at the start of January.  This latest figure corresponds to a daily rate of 9.7 new cases per 21,650 residents or 44.9 per 100,000. This data is available at https://bit.ly/2PxCgDM.  

Sincerely,

Judy Paolucci, Superintendent