Hello OCRS families,
I want to thank you for your continued support and cooperation in keeping OCRS safe for our students and staff. All of the teachers and staff appreciate that families have let the school know immediately whenever one of students is getting tested for COVID or has tested positive. This timely communication, along with keeping students home if they have ANY symptoms, is critical in preventing COVID outbreaks at OCRS. All of our actions impact each other, students, staff, and families, and we want to make sure that we are all doing our absolute best to take care of each other and keep our entire school community healthy and safe.
As a request, please think twice before sending your child to a party or social gathering. While I understand that people want to get together and socialize with family and friends, these social events are impacting learning and safety for all OCRS students, staff, and families. We need to keep our social circles outside of school and work as small as possible. I also realize that everyone is really tired of the COVID guidelines; teachers and staff are exhausted as well. However, it is crucial that we continue to be as consistent as possible following the COVID guidelines and protocols to do everything we can to keep schools open for our students.
I am grateful for the efforts OCRS students, families, and staff have made since the opening of school and it has paid off in terms of how few COVID issues we have had to date. Let's all keep working together through the holidays to keep each other healthy and safe and our school open for the benefit of our students.
Return to School Planning Report #22
On Friday, Dr. Paolucci shared the twenty-second Smithfield "Return to School Planning Report" with all Smithfield families. If you have not yet read it or if you did not receive it, I strongly encourage you to read the weekly report in its entirety at https://www.smithfield-ps.org/....
November 16th Flex Day (ALL students home)
As part of the R.I. Department of Education calendar that districts were asked to adopt for this school year, a number of "Flex Days" were included to allow teachers and staff to engage in regular planning to prepare for teaching students in-person as well as virtually. While these Flex Days were originally scheduled to be monthly, a few were removed from the calendar after the governor delayed the opening of school for two weeks. A Smithfield Flex Day is scheduled for Monday, November 16th. Here is what a Flex Day means for students:
- In-person students will not report to school on Flex Days. All students will be home on Flex Days.
- There will be no live instruction on a Flex Day for either in-person or virtual students.
- All students, in-person and virtual, will have an English Language Arts and Math activity to work on during each Flex Day. In-person students will NOT be bringing home their school Chromebooks ahead of Flex Days. The activities will not require the use of a Chromebook.
You should receive information about the Flex Day ELA and Math activities from each of your children's teachers.
Adjusted Guidance from the RIDOH on Mask Breaks for Students
During the school day on Thursday, 11/12 the State of Rhode Island, RIDOH, and RIDE published updated information and guidance for all schools about mask breaks for students while at school. We immediately put the new guidance into place on Friday and I wanted to make sure that families know about the changes
- There will not be any more scheduled mask breaks for students. With the exception of while eating breakfast, snack, and lunch, students should keep their mask on at all times when at school. This includes while outside and even during silent reading.
- Students who require mask breaks according to a behavioral plan, IEP, or 504 plan will still be allowed to take breaks. We will ensure that they are 6+ feet away from anyone else when taking a mask break.
- As a district and a school, we are going to work to minimize the time that students have their masks off during eating. We are looking at the schedules for breakfast, snack, and lunch across the district to see if there is any way to tighten these up to minimize the amount of time that students have their masks off to eat.
As a school, we were already being very cautious about mask breaks for our students, so, while this new guidance is a change, it should not be too significant a change to our existing routines. Weather permitting, teachers will still take students outside for regular breaks to give them an opportunity to stretch and move for a few minutes. By simply reinforcing and reteaching routines that we already have in place (mask wearing, adequate spacing, following the arrows in the hallways, students staying in/with their pod, following the bathroom schedule, etc.), our teachers and staff are making a concerted effort not to let this change in the guidance cause any additional anxiety for our students.
Returning to School after Negative COVID Tests
A reminder from Mrs. Forte about returning to school after negative COVID tests. If, for any reason, a student or staff member needs to get tested for COVID-19, that student or staff member needs to remain at home until they receive the results of BOTH negative tests. This includes the negative results of the rapid test AND the PCR test. The results of just the rapid test are not sufficient to be able to return to school.
What Happens if there is a switch to Distance Learning?
If the governor, RIDOH, or RIDE decide that as a state or Smithfield as a community we need to switch to Distance Learning for a period of time, all OCRS students, both in-person and virtual learning, will make the transition to Distance Learning. Here is some overall information about what that will look like:
- There will be a school-wide schedule for Distance Learning that loosely matches the current school schedule. In order to ensure that we continue to support all students that are scheduled for specific educational services, we will shift to a daily schedule for Distance Learning that matches the daily schedule already in place for our school. More information about this schedule will be shared if we need to shift to Distance Learning.
- The school will schedule a materials pick-up for any families that will need to pick up a Chromebook or other learning materials for their child(ren) to be able to successfully learn at home. Like last year, we will schedule a pick up of materials for families. Based upon our experience from last year, we are starting to prepare if such a distribution of materials is needed.
- We will use Google Classroom as our hub for Distance Learning. One of the challenges that many school districts faced last year with the shift to Distance Learning was how to easily and clearly organize all of the online resources and materials for students and their families. Smithfield will use Google Classroom as the main hub and "one stop shop" for students and their families to go to in order to find and access all of the online learning materials.
- Virtual learning students that were working with the virtual learning tutors will no longer work with the tutors for the duration of the Distance Learning period. Virtual learning students will join the rest of their classmates in working with their classroom teacher on a daily basis. Working with the virtual learning tutors will resume when Distance Learning ends.
I truly hope that we do not need to switch to Distance Learning, however, if we do, we are working hard to make the transition as smooth as possible.
Please sign-up to be a member of the OCRS PTA for the 2020-2021 school year. OCRS PTA membership fees this year are $5.00 for the 1st family member, and $3.00 for each additional family member. Families can sign-up and pay for the membership online at https://my.cheddarup.com/c/ocrspta
5th Grade Committee
Thank you to Dorothy Chin Gerding and Brittan Bates-Manni for volunteering to co-chair this year's 5th Grade Committee! The committee if you are a parent of a 5th grade student and you would like to help Dorothy and Brittan plan activities for our 5th grade students, please let me know and I will forward your contact information to them.
Upcoming Dates and Events
Flex Day (No in-person learning for students), Monday 11/16
Thanksgiving Break, NO SCHOOL, 11/25-11/27
Ongoing thanks to OCRS families for your Patience, Flexibility, and Empathy. Those three words are guiding us throughout this school year and we will all need to continue to make adjustments as the year progresses. As long as we approach those adjustments with the best interests of our students as our priority, I am confident that this will continue to be a safe and successful year.