Smithfield schools propose no changes to operations

Smithfield schools propose no changes to operations

SMITHFIELD – While positive COVID-19 cases are rising across Rhode Island, the Smithfield School Department is not proposing any changes to its teaching format during Gov. Gina Raimondo’s two-week statewide pause beginning Nov. 30.

Supt. Judy Paolucci said the district continues to rely on the Rhode Island Department of Health for guidelines and investigations of positive cases in the schools. The district will work with RIDOH and follow all state protocols, she said.

Following the governor’s announcement, the district decided to remain in the current hybrid model until such a point as additional staff quarantines compromise school operations, or until they’re directed otherwise.

The number of teachers in quarantine is increasing, Paolucci added, saying there are multiple reasons for that. Teachers may test positive or have a family member or student test positive, but some need to stay home because children attending school in other districts are now at home.

“As we have more and more staff members who are out, it puts a strain on our ability to keep our schools open,” Paolucci said, adding that the district does not always have enough substitutes.

Paolucci commended principals at Smithfield schools for getting classes covered each day.

“The goal is to be prepared for changes that come about through changing conditions from the pandemic,” she said.

As of last Friday, Nov. 20, Paolucci reported 21 individuals newly testing positive within the school district, including six at the high school, six at the middle school, three at McCabe Elementary School, and two each at Old County Road, Winsor, and LaPerche Elementary schools.

In total, 64 students and teachers tested positive in the first 10 weeks of school, Paolucci said.

“We are a microcosm of the whole state. As state numbers go up, our numbers go up,” she said.

In the past three months, Paolucci said Smithfield has seen a steady increase in new cases, from six per week in September to 114 new cases last week, which was more than double the previous week’s positive cases of 55.

“The numbers are multiplying, leading to the governor’s call for a statewide pause,” she said.

Paolucci said the district is not seeing spread happening within the schools, but said “spread is all around us.”

On a positive note, Paolucci said the district picked up 207 HEPA filters from the state, allowing one free-standing air purifying unit per classroom.

“We’re making as many changes as we can to decrease the spread of the virus,” she said.

Paolucci said much of the spread is happening within families, with the trend of parents testing positive leading to students testing positive a short time after.