Dear Smithfield Staff and Families,
This 7th edition of the Back to School report includes our weekly report on COVID cases, mask requirements and breaks, vaccination rates, lunch practices, adherence to COVID guidelines, and town data. For additional news about our schools, please see our September newsletter, available at https://bit.ly/3CZ5TV4.
A Weekly Report on COVID Cases
Another 31 cases were confirmed since the last Back to School Report for a total of 43 cases since the start of the school year. This week’s cases included 14 SHS football players, 9 other SHS students, 4 GMS students, 2 LaPerche students, a Pleasant View ES student, and an OCRS student.
Mask Requirements and Mask Breaks
Our students are doing well with adhering to requirements to wear masks in schools. This requirement is also extended to meetings and events held in our schools and administration offices and to adults, as well as children. Any individuals attending school committee meetings will be required to wear masks while at the meeting and in the building.
Teachers are encouraged to provide mask breaks in their classrooms, especially when students are working quietly. We also encourage teachers to teach outside, whenever possible. Students take mask breaks to drink water, eat snacks, and eat lunch.
More Smithfield Students Getting Vaccinated!
At the end of August, 63.3% of Smithfield High School students had been fully vaccinated while at the end of September, this figure was 68.3%. For Gallagher Middle School, the August figure was 48.2% of eligible students and the figure is now 55.8%. While vaccination does not guarantee that a person will not get COVID-19 (both vaccines have about 95% efficacy), vaccinated individuals are less likely to get and spread the virus and they are not required to be quarantined if they are a close contact of an infected individual. Most importantly, if vaccinated persons contract the virus, they are far less likely to be hospitalized. For more information about vaccination and to find a vaccination clinic, go to: https://covid.ri.gov/vaccination.
Lunch Practices Updates
We reviewed lunch practices to ensure safety and consistency across the schools. Students are expected to wear masks and maximize physical distancing while moving through the food service line and to put masks back on once done eating. Food services staff should wear masks at all times while serving students. Principals are encouraged to have some students eat outside, when possible. Below are practices for each school level:
Students will be seated with classroom peers in groups not to exceed 8 students.
Lunch table groupings will be rotated and seating charts will be kept up-to-date.
Students wear masks when out of their seats and when speaking during lunch.
Students will maintain consistent seating arrangements in the cafeteria, with no more than 8 students per table. Tables will be spaced to the extent possible.
Students are asked to maintain a reasonable volume when talking at lunch and put their masks on when done eating.
Seating will be limited to 8 students per table.
Students will scan the QR code at their table to assist with contact tracing.
Adherence to COVID Guidelines
We have had a few families who have allowed their children to attend school or sporting events while experiencing symptoms and/or when awaiting COVID test results. These students later tested positive for COVID-19. As a result, many more students had to be quarantined than if the children had stayed home while sick. We ask that all families and students show care and respect for others by adhering to all protocols. Our shared goal is to keep students safe and in school.
Guidance updates include:
Our district will now follow the one major/two minor symptom guidance for exclusion from school. This guidance was in place for the last school year.
Household members of a symptomatic person can stay in school until a positive test result is reported.
While RI’s numbers last week went down slightly, Smithfield’s remained fairly consistent. Last week, the number of new COVID cases in Smithfield was 32 while the state’s figure was 1957, down from 2171 the week prior (prior week’s figures are adjusted as data is reviewed). The town rate corresponds to a daily rate of 4.6 new cases per 22,000 residents, or about 20.8 per 100,000. This is considered substantial transmission by the CDC and RIDOH. We anticipate a jump in the next week’s reported data (for week ending 10/1), aligned with what we are seeing in our schools. This data is available at https://bit.ly/2PxCgDM.
Judy Paolucci, Superintendent