Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze & Observer 07-23-2020

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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2 IN OUR SCHOOLS JULY 23-29, 2020 | VALLEY BREEZE & OBSERVER | SMITHFIELD SCITUATE FOSTER GLOCESTER EDITION Paolucci: Reopening plans teetering on the impossible SMITHFIELD – Supt. Judy Paolucci says she wanted to set the record straight that the state will have the final say on students returning to school in the fall, staying home for distance learning, or learning through a hybrid model. She said she's heard complaints about each of the three plans the Smithfield dis- trict delivered to the Rhode Island Department of Education for stu- dents' return to school. The district followed RIDE guidelines to create the three plans for students to return on Aug. 31. "What they asked us to do is teeter- ing on the impossible," Paolucci said. Even worse, she said, the district will not learn which plan to put into motion until Aug. 17. Until then, Smithfield school officials will con- tinue to budget and plan for all three scenarios. A committee of more than 30 mem- bers helped draft the three-option plan, which spells out processes for screening students, teachers, staff and visitors before entering the building, as well as how to handle a student falling ill during the day. In the 111-page plan, the district outlines specific details for opening such as detailed cleaning, bathroom use, and transportation issues. "We thought through quite a lot of the details," she said. In the "return to school model," Paolucci said that 100 percent of stu- dents are expected to return to school physically. Elementary students will remain in "pods" and mainly in the same group, while maintaining social distance guidelines. Paolucci said students will most likely eat in classrooms, and avoid large gatherings such as cafete- ria lunches. Transportation is the main challenge in the full return plan. She said buses will be at half capacity, and students will need to be distanced on the bus. Paolucci said transportation to ele- mentary schools is set, and the middle and high school numbers need to come down. In the partial return, or hybrid model, half of students will alternate in-person study days from virtual learning from home. Still, 100 percent of elementary students will return. In both scenarios, students will be required to wear masks for the major- ity of the day, and Paolucci said the district is looking at times or places such as outdoor learning where masks may be removed. There will be no penalties for a stu- dent not wearing a mask. Paolucci said the decision to bring the elementary students back is because younger children are not spreading the virus as much as older children, and it is more difficult for parents to instruct elementary stu- dents or leave children at home all day. Paolucci said the plan will feature teachers creating virtual lessons sepa- rate from in-class instruction. Paolucci said the district updated and improved its at-home virtual learning program. "Our full distance learning plan is really tight, really good. I think we did well in the spring, but this improves on what we did," Paolucci said. Paolucci said students are not yet able to choose whether to attend school virtually or in person. If RIDE offers the option, Paolucci said the district will look into the number of students who wish to remain home and available teachers and see if it can work. Feedback from parents and teachers varies sharply, she said. Some want to go back to school while others want to hold off. "People are passionate on both sides of this. It's our job to do our best to make everyone as safe as possible," Paolucci said. The district also updated attendance policies for sick students or students in quarantine to allow virtual learning. Plans for the Aug. 31 return in Scituate schools are similar to what is proposed in Smithfield. "We are confident that our plan is safe, equitable, and it follows all of the current guidelines and requirements," Supt. Carol Blanchette said. Blanchette said the Scituate Reopening Task Force consisted of about 30 people who worked diligent- ly to create three plans and continue the complex, time-consuming work critical to a safe reopening of schools for students and staff. "That is the number one priority," Blanchette said. She said communication will be critical in planning, and she expects a decision from RIDE no later than July 31. The eventual plan will be posted online. Blanchette said transportation is the biggest issue for Scituate schools. The district has a limited number of buses, drivers and monitors, and guidelines encourage a second monitor to main- tain social distancing rules. To solve the problem, Blanchette said the district is surveying parents for availability to drop off and pick up students at school five days per week. "We had a very positive result in the number willing to do that," Blanchette said. Social distancing is a critical piece of the puzzle, she said. While elementary students remain in the same groups, she said it is virtually impossible to maintain stable groups in the middle and high school levels. The district's plan includes social distancing mod- els, cleaning plans, testing and screen- ing for the virus. "If six feet is not possible, then face coverings are required. Creating spaces that adhere to these types of requirements in each of our buildings has been an ongoing conversation," she said. The Valley Breeze is committed to keeping quality news stories like this one free to our readers. You can be a huge part of this local journalism success story by making a one-time or monthly contribution to what we do every week at port. Thank you as always for reading. By JACQUELYN MOOREHEAD Valley Breeze & Observer Staff Writer Scituate also submits back-to- school plans Jacob Harwood, of Chepachet, has been inducted into the Phi Kappa Phi honor society. He is a student at the University of Massachusetts. Talia Botelho, of Smithfield, a student at Eastern Connecticut State University, has been induct- ed into Psi Chi, the international honors society for psychology. Karena Pezzullo, of Scituate, has been inducted into the honor society of Phi Kappa Phi. She was initiated at University of North Texas. Paige Howard and Celia Palardy, of Smithfield, have been named to the spring semes- ter dean's list at the University of New England. Sienna Prieto, of Smithfield, has been named to the spring semester dean's list at Nazareth College. Sarah Bain, of Smithfield, has been named to the spring semester dean's list at Bucknell University. Amelia Botelho, of Foster, was awarded the Crown & Shield Award for exceptional service and leadership at Assumption College. Victoria Grissom, of Chepachet, has been named to the spring semester president's list at Plymouth State University. Antonia Dicicco, of Foster, has been named to the spring semester president's list at Plymouth State University. Maria Trotta, of North Scituate, has been named to the spring semester president's list at Plymouth State University. John Fontaine, of Smithfield, was named a Presidential Scholar for the spring semester at Clarkson University. Christopher Rene, of North Scituate, was awarded Worcester Polytechnic Institute's 2020 Wilmer L. and Margaret M. Kranich Prize. Sophia Dooley, of Greenville, received the James L. Dunbar Endowed Scholarship and ASIS Conference Scholarship at Nichols College. She was also named to the spring semester dean's list. Sophia Sansonese, of Foster, was named to the spring president's list at Georgia State University. 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