Schools to return in-person full-time

An elementary school teacher speaks to students learning from home, while standing in a classroom full of students learning in person earlier this school year. 

 

High school, middle school will return full-time April 26

EAST GREENWICH- On April 1, East Greenwich School District Superintendent Alexis Meyer told the community in her weekly memo that she would be making a proposal to the school committee in regards to returning to in person learning full-time at both East Greenwich High School and Cole Middle School. 

 During the April 6 school committee meeting, that was the case. 

 Meyer outlined details of the proposal to return to school in person for East Greenwich High School and Cole Middle School on April 26. She explained all teachers and staff were eligible to get their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on April 1 so it would allow for “maximum immunity.” In addition, the timing will allow for middle and high school staff to have enough time to move furniture, and set up the two schools properly. 

Meyer explained in the overview that there are a number of different conditions that will allow them to have more in-person learning. Aside from the anticipation of having updated guidance from RIDOH in the coming weeks, and having teachers and staff fully vaccinated, she mentioned that the warmer weather will help. Because of the nice weather coming it will allow them to have more windows open, and have increased circulation. 

 In the overview of the proposal, one important topic was in regards to student transportation. 

“We are currently working with our busing provider - Ocean State Transit - to confirm existing ridership and bus capacity. We anticipate that any student who is currently attending in the 50/50 hybrid model (or currently 100 percent In-person) who is currently assigned busing will be able to take the bus Monday-Friday,” the overview stated. 

The plans for transportation in the overview went on to state, “the District will reach out to all families whose children are currently assigned to busing to confirm that they still require transportation for the remainder of the school year. Should ridership be lower than anticipated and/or spacing guidelines allow for additional riders, the District may entertain the addition of new riders in a method still to be determined.”

 Meyer explained during the meeting that families at the two schools  were asked to fill out a survey to let them know if they plan on having their student(s) attend full-time in person or full-time distance learning for the rest of the year starting after the proposed date. She said that they are still waiting for about 300 responses. 

“With today’s CDC changes to physical distancing recommendations and in anticipation of changes to local health and safety guidelines that align with the CDC guidance, we need to establish the number of students at Cole & EGHS who will be participating as either 100% Distance Learners OR 100% In Person Learners under these new conditions,” it stated in the introduction of the survey.  

They will also have temporary distance learning options for students if it is needed due to a COVID-19 related matter. 

“Additionally, temporary distance learning will be made available to any student who needs to be home due to a COVID related matter (awaiting test results, tests positive but is well enough to engage in schooling, quarantine due to close contact, etc.)” the overview stated. 

It also stated in the overview that distance learning won’t be available temporarily unless it is due to a COVID-19 matter. 

“Temporary distance learning is not available due to a desire to be a distance learner for a specific event, class, day, week, month (i.e. overslept, missed the bus, on vacation, college visit, resting for athletics, etc.),” the overview stated. 

 During the meeting Meyer explained that out of those who filled out the survey so far 19.6 percent said that their student participates in distance learning completely, 12.9 percent go to school four or five days a week, and 67.6 percent go to school in a hybrid model. 

 Out of the 1120 surveys filled out, 86 percent of responses said that families intend to send their students to school in person for the remainder of the year after April 26, and 14 percent responded that they prefer to finish out with distance learning this year. 

 Meyer explained that the main reason why full-in person return to school this year is possible, is because of the mitigation efforts that the school district has made. 

 “We’ve been quite successful in our mitigation efforts and we’ve learned a lot,” Meyer said. 

Cole Middle School Principal David Tober explained that one of the biggest mitigation challenges that they are faced with when it comes to having more students in school full-time is in regards to lunch time. 

He said one thing that they have been able to establish is having lunches distributed in different locations for each team, which will allow for less crowding to get their lunches and will allow for proper social distancing. 

In addition, Tober said the school has been able to get plastic shields put up at each lunch table and also they have been able to have lunch outside which has helped. 

 “We have tons and tons of space outside,” Tober said.  “We’re ready to go with full in person [learning].”

East Greenwich High School Principal Kenneth Hopkins Jr. explained that the school’s mitigation plan with the addition of more students is a “re-emphasis on the protocols from the beginning of the year.”

After the principals made their presentations Meyer thanked them for coming up with ways to keep students healthy this year throughout the pandemic. 

“You make me proud listening to you,” she said. 

Meyer said that overall it’s going to take everyone to make the return to school process a success. 

“In order for this to work it takes a whole community effort,” she added. 

The next East Greenwich School Committee meeting is slated for Tuesday, April 20 at 7 p.m.

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