Dear Smithfield Staff and Families,
This 25th edition of the weekly Return to School report includes our weekly report on COVID cases, our distance learning plan, new guidance on quarantines, an alert on identity theft, and general reminders.
A Weekly Report on COVID Cases
This past week, another 28 staff and students tested positive. Sixteen cases were from SHS, no new cases were from OCRS or from LaPerche, 9 were from GMS, 1 from Winsor, and 2 were from McCabe. This brings our total number of cases to 142 since the start of the school year. Since we may not get reports of all new cases over the break, this may be the last time we report on the total number of cases.
For Smithfield High School and Gallagher Middle School, the numbers are particularly disheartening. Of the over 400 schools listed on RIDOH’s data page (see https://bit.ly/2PxCgDM), these two schools are in the top 12 for numbers of COVID cases. Interestingly, the numbers of virtual option students in Smithfield testing positive are also relatively high.
Our Distance Learning Plan
The School Committee’s decision to move to distance learning through the holiday break results in 3 distance learning days for elementary students (starting December 21), 7 for high school students (starting December 15), and 10 for middle school students (starting December 9). December 14th is a Flex Day and parent conferences are scheduled for elementary schools.
In this full, distance learning model, all students will participate in daily virtual lessons. Teachers will provide synchronous instruction and students will continue to receive interventions and special education services virtually via Google Meets.
When school begins on January 4th, our plan is to return to full, in-person instruction, however, we may either remain in full distance learning or transition to the limited in-person scenario depending on the local conditions and/or decisions made at the state level.
In a limited-opening scenario, the schools will be open for a maximum of 25% of students. While the majority of students will participate virtually, school teams have identified at-risk and IEP students who will continue to attend school in-person. The middle and high schools would no longer follow an A/B schedule. Rather, all students would be expected to participate in virtual lessons daily. Teachers would provide synchronous instruction from their classrooms while students continue to follow set schedules, either in-person or via Google Meets. In-person students may be scheduled into resource classrooms or combined into classrooms. Should this model be implemented, additional information would be distributed to families and staff.
In any scenario, students participating virtually are expected to log on to all synchronous learning sessions at the specified times, keep their Chromebook cameras on (unless having difficulty with connectivity) and microphones off unless speaking, engage fully in lessons, submit assignments on time, and utilize office hours to receive additional support from teachers.
New Guidance on Quarantines
Effective December 10th, RIDOH updated quarantine requirements for the general public. This new guidance reduces the number of days of quarantine from 14 days to 10 days from the last known exposure. Individuals may shorten the quarantine to 7 days if they have a negative result from a test taken 5 days or more after the last day of exposure. Smithfield Public Schools will be applying this new protocol for future cases.
Alert: Contact Tracing Identity Theft Advisory
It was reported that an email, looking like it came from the RIDOH, solicited the Social Security Number of a COVID-positive student. Besides the date of birth, RIDOH will never require that you provide any other personal identifying information that could cause fraud or deception. Please stay vigilant to ensure your personal information remains safe. For RIDOH’s scammer response guide-lines, click here.
Please take the following steps if you believe you have encountered a contact tracing scammer:
1. If contacted by a RIDOH contact tracer who requests more than your date of birth, attempt to verify their credentials, including their call-back number and their supervisor.
2. If you are unable to verify the contact tracer‘s credentials, immediately hang up the phone and submit a complaint through the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/complaint or reportfraud.ftc.gov.
3. Never disclose Social Security Numbers, credit card numbers, or other financial information over the phone with an alleged contact tracer.
4. Do not click or download links received via text or email from an alleged contact tracer. It may contain malware.
5. For more information on how contact tracing scamming, click here.
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. We will be distributing additional information about how to pick up a meal during distance learning days. 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 three weeks ago, then saw a decrease last week, to 92, then up again to an all-time high of 169 this past week. This corresponds to a daily rate of 24.1 new cases per ~22,000 residents, or 111 per 100,000. This data is available at: https://bit.ly/2PxCgDM.
Judy Paolucci, Superintendent