EAST GREENWICH – Operations at Archie R. Cole Middle School have since returned to the “new normal” after a student recently tested positive for COVID-19. Students who were potentially exposed engaged in distance learning earlier this week, though have since returned to school in person after an investigation from the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH).

“There was a student that tested positive and the Rhode Island Department of Health did not have the time to finish the investigation,” said Alexis Meyer, East Greenwich Superintendent of Schools, “so students on the Cyclone Team had a distance learning day.”

In East Greenwich and in many public school districts across the state, students are engaging in a hybrid learning model, a strategy adopted as schools prepared to reopen throughout the summer in the midst of the health crisis. Hybrid learning is a blend of both in-person and distance learning, meaning students are separated into teams and rotate days of the week attending school in person and learning from home. Grouping students in this fashion helps to ensure that schools are not over capacity and social distance protocols can be maintained among students, teachers and faculty.

After the positive COVID-19 case at the middle school, students on Team Cyclone engaged in distance learning on Tuesday as a precaution as RIDOH completed its investigation. The East Greenwich School Department could not comment on whether any additional students had to quarantine, though operations at Cole have since returned to normal with teams returning to their standard in-person and distance learning-designated days.

“The Rhode Island Department of Health drives all of this,” said Meyer. “They are the governing body for all of this, but what they are reporting, based on their data and what we’re seeing nationally, is that masking, social distancing and frequent handwashing and disinfection are mitigation strategies that work.”

“The ability to test frequently, quickly and effectively is also important,” the East Greenwich Superintendent continued. “And isolating anyone who has had any kind of potential exposure.”

At the middle school, students are separated into six teams for hybrid learning purposes: Team Lightning and Team Avalanche (sixth grade), Team Cyclone and Team North Star (seventh grade) and Team Eclipse and Team Riptide (eighth grade).

While operations at Archie Cole have “returned to normal” after RIDOH’s investigation, the meaning of the phrase itself has since changed with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Students are wearing masks in school, keeping socially distanced and making time for frequent handwashing. Custodians and other staff regularly disinfect surfaces and common areas such as bathrooms. Finally, as previously mentioned, students and teachers alternate days in which they attend school in person or engage in distance, virtual learning from home.   

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