Dear North Smithfield Families and Staff,
I wanted to take a moment to wish everyone a happy and safe Thanksgiving and summarize my report at the 11/17/2020 School Committee Meeting.
COVID, Quarantines, and Remaining Open
Thank you to our teachers and students for maintaining the protocols and procedures we put in place to mitigate the risk of COVID spread. As cases continue to climb across the country and state, we will continuously monitor the conditions in North Smithfield and our schools.
To date, what all of you are doing is working. Our numbers of positive cases are lower than most other school districts and so far all of our positive cases have been traced to exposure occurring outside of school.
Even though our positivity rates are very low compared to other districts, the number of students and staff the DOH is sending into quarantine is increasing dramatically. While this is a necessary precaution it does place a strain on our ability to adequately staff our classrooms and continue uninterrupted instruction to our students.
With the COVID spike statewide, family members are testing positive, meaning that our staff members must quarantine by association. With the COVID spike statewide, schools and daycares have been switching between in-person and Distance Learning, meaning that some of our staff members, especially those with small children, must take FFCRA leave (federally available to all employees). Also when a staff member feels ill with probable COVID symptoms, they must isolate and get tested, and wait at least 48 hours for a negative PCR test during which time we must try and cover classes. Unfortunately with the current spike in cases across the state, the K-12 testing system is overburdened resulting in delays in testing appointments and results. The original 48 hour period is no longer in effect and is extended.
We have established a system where we can pivot from in-person to at-home teaching and learning to ride out the various quarantines, and so far, with a tremendous effort from our teachers, we are making it work.
At a statewide superintendent’s meeting this week, I heard from districts that are considering switching to full Distance Learning due to the high numbers of staff who are in quarantine. I heard from districts that suggested they may need to switch to full Distance Learning because of their increased COVID-related expenses and uncertainty in State Aid to Education which has them facing budget deficits.
The coming weeks between Thanksgiving and the period after New Years will be a challenge for all of us. While we have protocols in place during the school day, we are affected by what happens after hours, during the weekends, and across the region and state.
We have brought back students in PK-6, 9, as well as students with IEP’s and 504 Plans. While we do want all of our students to return, we must still operate under a number of restrictions and precautions. I have stated at several School Committee meetings that I want to bring back our 12th graders, but I cannot commit to a date, or even if it is a possibility, until we have data regarding the return of the 9th graders to NSHS.
At the 11/17/2020 School Committee Meeting, Chair James Lombardi expressed concern for those students who are struggling. I was able to reply that I have already asked for a list of students in the Hybrid grade levels 7-8 and 10-12 who are struggling the most academically, emotionally, and psychologically to determine if we can offer their parents to bring them in additional days.
Governor’s Press Conference on 11/19/2020
At her press conference on 11/19/2020, Governor Raimondo announced that as of November 30 until the Winter break, all high schools will shift to their limited in-person plans that were developed earlier this year. PreK-8 students will remain in-person with the exception of students currently enrolled in virtual learning.
Our Limited Reopening Plan for the High School is the Hybrid plan we began the school year with. We have since expanded the plan to include four days a week in-person instruction for all students with IEP’s, 504 plans, 9th graders, whom we prioritized because 9th grade is an important transition year.
Based on the effectiveness of our protocols, the very low positivity rate in our schools, and the need to have students in school, we intend to keep the high school status quo for the time being. We will continue to closely monitor for any changes at the High School, and all schools, and dial back accordingly if it becomes necessary.
I have posted the enrollment report I presented to the School Committee at their 11/17 meeting. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1AXvJuMvj-7X8KGe4ebox_pEEzax2xQiQ/view?usp=sharing
Student and Family Supports
During the 11/17/20 School Committee Meeting, Committee Member Paul Jones asked about supports that were available to parents. While our school counselors, school psychologists, and school social workers are here for our students and families, we also recommend:
Available 24 hours a day/ 7 days a week.
Call if your child is feeling:
BH Link (for 18 yrs old and over)-401-414-5465
Mental Health and Substance Abuse
Samaritans of RI hotline-1-800-365-4044
24 hour crisis hotline/listening line
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline- 1-800-273-8255.
The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones.
Community Care Alliance-401-235-7120
Mental Health/Addiction/Child & Family services.
Substance abuse meetings, information, and resources. www.riafg.org
Community Care Alliance - 401-235-7000.
Housing support and Basic needs support (including heat and utilities)
Basic Needs Assistance > Programs & Services
Tri-Town Community Action Agency- 401-351-1913
11 Emanuel Street, North Providence, RI.
Housing and food assistance
Neighborhood Works- 401-762-0993
St. John’s Food Bank - 401-762-0946
63 Church Street, Slatersville, RI. Call to schedule a pantry appointment
Manville Food Share Program- 401-757-0605
11 Winter Street, Manville, RI 02838
Open 9-11 on the 2nd & 4th Saturday of the month
Clothes to Kids RI- 401-941-8050. https://clothestokidsri.org/
Clothes to Kids is a nonprofit providing school aged children in K through GED a full wardrobe of clothing - FREE OF CHARGE! Students can receive clothing twice a year.
TALKING TO CHILDREN ABOUT COVID-19
North Smithfield Schools Support Staff:
Available during school hours: In the event of an emergency, please call 911 or utilize an emergency number listed above if you or your child are at risk.
Michelle Halloran- School Social Worker, North Smithfield Middle & High School 401-597-6100. firstname.lastname@example.org
Maria Corsini- School Psychologist, North Smithfield Middle & High School 401-766-2500. email@example.com
Kim Cote-School Social Worker, North Smithfield Elementary School
Maggy Bell-School Psychologist, North Smithfield Elementary School
- Michael St. Jean, Superintendent