EAST GREENWICH—The school committee passed a motion Tuesday night to express support for Schools Superintendent Alexis Meyer’s plan to move elementary-aged students to a full in-person learning schedule next week. The move follows feedback from several surveys sent to both parents and educators, as well as recent improvements to COVID-related sanitation practices.
Surveys sent to parents and guardians of students in the district received 341 responses in the first week of school and 231 this week. Surveys of a similar nature were also solicited from teachers and administrators across the district in an effort to help the superintendent determine how to help the district meet the needs of its members.
“It’s been really interesting to look at the feedback,” Meyer said, “and helpful.”
When asked to rate the district on its communication skills on a five-point scale (with one being the worst and five being the best), respondents gave an average rating of 4.3 for the district and between 3.9-4.2 at the individual school level.
When asked whether children were safe attending school in the district, over 70 percent of respondents during the first week answered in the affirmative, with that number rising to over 80 percent in the second week.
“When asked a question about whether they thought things would improve,” Meyer said, “folks did say they thought things would improve.”
Respondents gave mixed responses regarding the level of engagement in the district, with many feeling the frustration of inadequate technology supplies. The district was supposed to receive enough Chromebooks to offer a 1-to-1 Chromebook to student ratio, but disruptions to the supply chain have thus far frustrated that ambition. Currently, the district is expecting its next shipment of Chromebooks in October, but that is still uncertain.
When asked a question about how comfortable they are being in school, a majority of staff respondents reported that they were comfortable, but when asked about their physical health, roughly 50 percent reported having concerns.
In all, the superintendent expressed some satisfaction with the district’s capacity to improve under the circumstances and encouraged more members of the community to take the most recent survey if they hadn’t already.
“Certainly the biggest issue of frustration was technology,” Meyer said. “It has vastly improved. But it certainly hasn’t been easy for anybody.”
“I’m grateful that we went forward and did [the survey] because it was really good feedback to hear,” Meyer added.
“It’s amazing the way everybody has pulled together on this,” committee member Eugene Quinn agreed.
The superintendent also delivered a presentation on the continued process of reopening schools, which explored new RIDOH efforts at expanding COVID-19 testing for pre-k through grade 5 students. Currently, the state fire marshal is visiting schools in the district, 26 new portable HEPA are being brought in, 100 new box fans were purchased to facilitate airflow and special air purifiers were being installed in various rooms in the district.
Meyer also praised the students of the district for their continued dedication to learning in the COVID era.
“They’re working hard. They’re helping out,” Meyer said. “And they’re being resilient as well.”
“We’ve been doing the very best we can with what we have,” said committee member Alyson Powell.
Powell then expressed interest in the possibility of having the committee meet with the town council to explore options related to helping the district fund expenses that have arisen as a result of COVID-related hardships.
“I would never hesitate to consider every option before us,” Meyer said.
“What are we doing to support our teachers in terms of professional development?” Committee member Anne Musella asked in response. “I think there’s more support that’s needed.”
“We as a body have never actually asked the town council for additional funds, and I don’t understand why,” Musella added. “That’s a conversation that needs to happen in public”
Meyer expressed that one reason for the lack of clarity on when the town would be able to comment on budgetary matters was due to the fact that the timeline for state budget adoption has continually been pushed back, effectively offering no good time to approach the town about any budgetary woes.
For now, the health and safety standards across the district were deemed to be sufficiently good to reopen pre-k through grade 5 students to full in-person learning beginning next Tuesday, following an asynchronous Monday, and thereafter adhering to the state schools calendar.