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Letter: Formulating a plan for return to school in East Providence

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Kathryn M. Crowley, Superintendent of Schools for East Providence, penned the following letter addressed to parents and guardians of students in the city. She submitted it to The Post for publication as well.

To the editor:
School is finally out — although the change is much less noticeable this year. You have all been great in maintaining a strong learning environment within the District under circumstances that were very difficult. As we have mentioned before, Rhode Island led the country in providing uninterrupted schooling for its students and East Providence led Rhode Island. You deserve so much credit for that huge accomplishment. Please, pat yourselves on the back and, when you see another parent, give them a pat on the back. Kudos to you all.

What about September?

Governor Raimondo, along with the RI Department of Education (RIDE), has a plan for reopening schools on August 31. The school year calendar will be the same for all districts in the State. RIDE will be issuing guidance on what must be done to prepare for the opening and districts will have about one month to submit their plans for the opening.

We have created a Focus Task Force to develop the plan led by Dr. Sandra Forand, Assistant Superintendent. There are four committees within the Task Force.

Teaching and Learning: This group will create plans for resuming in-school education. One focus will be students transitioning from one grade to the next and those moving up to Martin and Riverside Middle Schools and the High School.

Another will be assessing students’ learning over the last several months with plans for addressing any issues the assessments bring to light. Plans will be created to respond to any future crisis such as a resurgence of COVID-19. The Task Force will coordinate with the District’s on-going curriculum development programs in order to maintain the progress made over the last several years.

Business and Operations: Finances are a critical issue coming into the new school year. The District’s budget is being prepared with a considerable number of unknowns. The pandemic has raised issues with the East Providence budget that will likely have ramifications for the schools. The Governor has made us aware of revenue shortfalls for the State that are likely to lead to less state aid being available to districts. On the other hand, reopening schools following Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines potentially requires significant increases in our teaching staff, large demands on our custodial staffs and supplies to properly sanitize and re-sanitize our schools, and, since the expectation that any school closing will result in a resumption of at-home learning, our technology staff will be tasked with assuring every single student has an at-home computer and internet access at all times.

Added to the above is the issue of transportation. Following CDC social-distancing on school buses limits the capacity of the buses to less than half. A 65-passenger bus would carry no more than 20 students. This not only represents a huge expense but a logistical issue in the number of available buses and drivers.

Social and Emotional: The pandemic has altered the lives of our children. From months of at home learning to returning to schools that will look much different than when they left. These changes are likely to cause anxiety in any child but may also exacerbate the anxiety of already anxious children. We know we have children whose lives have been impacted by the pandemic - family members who may have been sick or passed away and parents who may have been out of work. The Task Force members will work with those professionals in each building charged with providing social/emotional supports for our children to anticipate needs and address issues.

Physical Environment and Safety: Obviously, this is the committee addressing the issue all of the other committees must work around. The health and safety of our students and staff are paramount. The District will adhere to guidelines and mandates being provided by the CDC and the RI Departments of Health and Education.

The committee will gather all of the mandates and guidelines and will, as things change, keep updated. Using these materials, the committee will formulate plans for how our District and schools will address each mandate and guideline.

Kathryn M. Crowley
Superintendent of Schools

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Mike Rego

Mike Rego has worked at East Bay Newspapers since 2001, helping the company launch The Westport Shorelines. He soon after became a Sports Editor, spending the next 10-plus years in that role before taking over as editor of The East Providence Post in February of 2012. To contact Mike about The Post or to submit information, suggest story ideas or photo opportunities, etc. in East Providence, email mrego@eastbaymediagroup.com.