Dear North Smithfield Families and Staff,
I wish I could be sharing better news with everyone. Since Easter, and as of yesterday, we have 9 positive COVID cases in our schools and 173 students and staff on quarantine. We are currently seeing the largest COVID surge in our schools ever. More concerning is that since we returned from the Easter weekend our school nurses have had to send home 32 students who came to school with COVID-like symptoms and these 32 students were just those who were brought to our attention. When students come to school with symptoms they potentially compromise their friends, classmates, teachers, and teammates.
COVID cases are on the rise across Rhode Island with the more virulent UK variant taking hold. Young people are having the highest rates of infection. Among young people, student-athletes have the highest concentration.
I am very concerned about what we will face after the April Vacation with so many having travel plans. I am concerned that the week we return from break, we start the spring sports season with 10 teams in play. With the trajectory we are on, I am concerned about maintaining spring sports and other spring events such as proms and graduation.
While many districts are planning to end hybrid instruction after the April Vacation, we have already done that. In an earlier update, I expressed optimism that as we discontinued the remaining Hybrid grade levels we could end the year strong and together. Now I am concerned that as excitement builds for a “return to normal” our surging cases brought on by the new variants and COVID fatigue will force us backward.
Family Travel During April Vacation
Vaccinated individuals are exempt from the requirement to test or quarantine upon returning to Rhode Island after out-of-state travel. Unfortunately, none of our children are currently vaccinated so community spread is a very real and continuing concern.
If you must travel during the April vacation, please refer to updated regulations from the Rhode Island Department of Health at https://covid.ri.gov/covid-19-prevention/travel-tofrom-ri.
Below is a summary as of this writing:
If you must travel, please continue to follow established procedures and precautions and monitor for any potential symptoms.
In all cases, please monitor your child for symptoms for a full 14 days after returning from travel. If your child does exhibit symptoms, he or she must stay home, isolate and be tested (PCR). Likewise, if any member of the family is exhibiting symptoms or received a positive test result, the student must also isolate and have a full PCR test.
We have received inquiries about our plans regarding the Monday Distance Learning Days. We fully understand and appreciate the desire to return to in-person instruction on Monday. Our teachers want nothing more than for everyone to return to full in-person instruction. We are keenly aware of the struggles of some of our families to arrange coverage for children at home and we know the fatigue many feel supervising their children during Distance Learning.
Last night I reluctantly made the recommendation to continue with Distance Learning Mondays, which was likewise reluctantly approved by the School Committee. Below are the reasons I shared:
I recognize the disappointment and anger some will feel with this recommendation and decision. We wish we could go back to five days a week in-person instruction, including our at-home learners. While some may feel otherwise, NSPS re-opened our schools faster, and remained consistently open, more so than many districts across the state.
Despite the concerns I expressed above, all of us are truly hoping that, with everyone’s cooperation, we can get a handle on this surge and will indeed finish the year strong and together.
Everyone, please have a restful April Vacation, and keep safe and healthy.
Michael St. Jean - Superintendent
Michael St. Jean,