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Admins provide updated outline for reopening schools in East Providence

At the moment, plan includes opt out for parents, students

Posted

EAST PROVIDENCE — District administrators conducted the first of a week-long series of Zoom public gatherings Monday night, July 27, highlighting aspects of the plan it submitted two weeks prior to the Rhode Island Department of Education to reopen East Providence schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic at the end of August.

The complete 31-page plan was also made available for viewing at the EPSD website, https://epschoolsri.org.

In her opening statement, Superintendent Kathryn Crowley made it known East Providence’s plan was presented to RIDE by the July 17 deadline. She said it was expected to be returned with any recommendations by Friday, July 31.

Superintendent Crowley said the plan, which was put together by committees composed of some 60 school district shareholders such as administrators, staff, parents and School Committee members, was devised “with the safety of our students first and of course the safety of our staff.”

Assistant Superintendent Dr. Sandra Forand, who chaired the overarching task force put together by Superintendent Crowley on the reopening issue, told viewers of the Zoom meeting the “core values” of the plan were health and safety, equity, collaboration, innovation, resilience and flexibility.

Specific to how the district is moving forward, Dr. Forand noted the state, through Gov. Gina Raimondo, will issue a final determination of how the start of the 2020-21 term will be conducted by Monday, Aug. 17. The governor is expected as of that date to declare whether in-person classes commence or if districts undertake a hybrid model of in-person and distance learning or if all learning will take place virtually as was the case for the final 12 weeks of the 2019-20 term.

Dr. Forand also emphasized at the moment, the district’s plan includes an opt-out for parents who do not wish to send their child to school due to the coronavirus threat. She explained parents and students must commit to the distance learning model for the entire first semester, which runs through January 25, 2021. The deadline to enroll in the virtual curriculum is Friday, Aug. 7.

Monday’s meeting, while specific to the high school setting, included aspects of re-entry for all levels of students.

Dr. Forand said all staff and students would be required to wear face coverings. Intentional mask breaks will be built into the day. Staff or students who for medical reasons cannot wear masks must seek a medical waiver through the principal’s office.

Parents and staff must, on a daily basis, complete a symptom check form declaring their health or that of their child. If staff or student show symptoms of the virus during the day, each building will have a designated “isolation” room where that person will remain until transportation home is available.

Classrooms have been or in the process of being made suitable for social distancing. Desks are at least six feet apart and are all facing in the same direction, Dr. Forand said. All non-essential furniture has been removed. All seating will be assigned.

As for food, high school students “grab and go” breakfasts will be available in classrooms or at designated areas throughout the building. “Grab and go” lunches will be available for pick-up at dismissal. Dr. Forand said students who do not qualify for reduced food programs or who typically bring food with them to school can continue to do so if desired.

For arrivals and dismissals, students will enter and depart buildings through multiple doorways. Plans specific to each school will be made available to parents and students prior to the start of classes. There will be a “no visitor” policy at every building.

Busing will be provided, but distance qualifications are expected to be increased due to the number of vehicles available and because of social distancing guidelines. The administration is urging all families who can to either transport their students to buildings or safely carpool when possible.

Dr. Forand also laid out the three potential scenarios for the start of the 20-21 term at the high school.

If the full in-person model is followed and to adhere to social distancing requirements, then freshmen and juniors as well as special populations will attend school on Mondays and Tuesdays. Sophomore and seniors as well as special populations would attend on Thursdays and Fridays. All students would distance learn on Wednesdays so the building could be cleaned and sanitized.

A partial return would follow the same, aforementioned schedule while a limited return of in-person attendance would see freshmen attend on Mondays, juniors on Tuesdays, sophomores on Thursdays and seniors on Fridays. They would be joined each day by members of the special populations. The building would also be closed on Wednesdays for the same cleaning and sanitizing.

Dr. Forand also noted high school attendance hours would daily from 7:25 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Distance learning will take place on days when students do not attend in-person classes.

Key for high school students, no decision as of yet has been made about the fall sports season. The Rhode Island Interscholastic League is expected to soon make a determination if it will sanction a season.

Also, because distancing standards are increased for band and chorus classes, recommended 14 feet apart as opposed to six, Dr. Forand said having students in rooms at the moment is “very difficult” and that the administration is working with the music department “to find solutions for that.”

As for other events such as open houses or orientations, those will be held virtually or outdoors when possible. Dr. Forand said all other after school activities at the moment are postponed or cancelled.

Specific to all distance learning, whether it is full-time or partial, Dr. Forand explained it will be different and, hopefully, improved from what staff and students conducted last spring.

Key elements of the new model are as follows:

Students on distance learning will have a set schedule and live classes matching expectations as the in person classroom.

Regular assessments will be built into instruction including both formative and
summative in order to continue to monitor student progress

Special education, support services (speech, OT, PT) and MLL instruction will take place virtually

Reteaching based on previous year’s assessment as well as the results of BOY diagnostic testing will take place.

Students will take special subjects by quarter (PE, art, music, library, tech, etc.)

Rigor and a balanced workload will be a focus.

The virtual reopening plan meetings continue  with middle school emphasis Tuesday night, July 28, followed by elementary schools both Wednesday and Thursday, July 29 and 30. The meeting can be accessed at the EPSD YouTube page and begin each evening at 6 p.m.

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