Dear Smithfield Staff and Families,
This 22nd edition of the weekly Return to School report includes our weekly report on COVID cases, buckling down on good practices, super spreaders, and general reminders.
A Weekly Report on COVID Cases
This past week, 14 individuals, four adults and ten students, were added to our list of members of our school community who tested positive for the coronavirus. Many of these individuals were already in quarantine, however, six required additional quarantines. Three cases were from SHS, one from OCRS, three from LaPerche, four from GMS, one from Winsor, one was a district-wide contracted employee and one from the bus company. This brings our total number of cases to 43 over the first nine weeks of school. The numbers are multiplying and call for stricter measures for mask-wearing and social distancing.
As the numbers of cases rise throughout the state and country, there is an increased need to strengthen practices that reduce the spread of the virus. We are so appreciative of our students’ and staff’s consistent use of masks but also know that we have become comfortable being around each other and need to address any slippage regarding social distancing. I am calling on all members of our school community to focus on these actions:
Lunch - When taking a personal lunch, do so without exposing any other staff members to a potential quarantine, should you fall ill. Staff should not be eating at shared tables, since mask-wearing is impossible during these times. When RIDOH asks about potential exposures during lunch, we want to be able to report no exposures.
Mask Breaks - New guidelines from RIDE eliminate the use of scheduled mask breaks in the classroom. If there is a need for an individual student to take a short mask break, this must be done at a distance in excess of 6 feet from another other person and should be limited.
Substitutes and Coverages - When substitutes and class coverages are required, those covering these classrooms should take extra precautions to limit their exposure to and students’ exposure from each other.
Snack and Breakfast - The time for eating snacks and breakfast should be reduced to the fullest extent possible. In some cases, it may be possible to combine breakfast and snack time. Each principal will develop their own plan to ensure that these times of the day, when students have their mask off to eat, are limited in duration.
Contact Tracing - Track your interaction with staff and students and reflect on ways that you can reduce your own list of close contacts. This not only ensures that the quarantine list is short, should you test positive, but it also reduces the overall risk of virus transmission in our community.
Overall, we have found that virus transmission most often occurs outside of the school environment. Let’s also attend to the governor’s recommendations for social gatherings so that everyone can be safe, both inside and outside of school.
No one wants to be labeled a super spreader or host an event that is deemed a super spreader incident. Spreading the virus, however, is not the only thing that one can spread during this unprecedented time in history. Mental health is also a concern. As I listened to the governor’s report on Thursday, I worried deeply for my parents, who live for family holiday gatherings. How might the governor’s recommendations affect them mentally and what could I do to help lighten their mood? How do I keep myself from falling into the abyss of despair?
While the governor was simply doing her job, we all know of those who, without purpose, spread negativity and we cannot always avoid their reach but we can watch ourselves for these behaviors and work proactively to build positivity in our schools and community. Let’s use the theme of Thanksgiving to focus on what is positive around us by publicly thanking those who contribute toward the wellbeing of our community. While I can’t list everyone I’m thankful for, here’s a start…
Thanks to Deb Calderon, president of the SATACE union (paraprofessionals and secretaries); Kathy Connell and David Martin, leaders of NEA Smithfield; and Ray Gaule, president of our custodial union; who are staunch advocates for their members while also approaching issues with professionalism and a sense of joint-problem solving.
Thanks to Andrea Paiva, Ward Harrison, Patti Sweet, Colleen Judge, John Tassoni, and other members of the Smithfield Prevention Coalition and SPC Regional Coalition for tirelessly working to curb substance use and support mental health in the region.
Thanks to Sara Monaco, our assistant superintendent, who is not letting a pandemic get in the way of efforts to improve curriculum and instruction.
Thanks to Eileen Crudele, Scott Barnett, Angelo Mencucci, and Lisa Cournoyer, who work as a team to support the work of our schools.
And a special thanks to our building administrators, secretaries, custodians, teachers, paraprofessionals, nurses, and others who enable success for all our students.
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.
School Meals - Both breakfast and lunch are free to ALL students.
Over the past 10 weeks, the town of Smithfield has seen a steady rise in new cases of COVID-19, from 6 per week in September to 55 new cases last week, rising from 33 the week before. This corresponds to a daily rate of 7.9 new cases per ~22,000 residents, or 36.1 per 100,000. This data is available at: https://bit.ly/2PxCgDM.
Judy Paolucci, Superintendent