East Providence awaits more clarity before finalizing school reopening protocols

School Committee updates immunization, residency policies; ESSER money spending explained

By Mike Rego
Posted 7/15/21

EAST PROVIDENCE — The district has yet to finalize its health and safety protocols for the start of the 2021-22 term while awaiting the most updated guidance from state and federal authorities …

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East Providence awaits more clarity before finalizing school reopening protocols

School Committee updates immunization, residency policies; ESSER money spending explained

Posted

EAST PROVIDENCE — The district has yet to finalize its health and safety protocols for the start of the 2021-22 term while awaiting the most updated guidance from state and federal authorities on the proper response to the lingering COVID-19 pandemic.

Superintendent Kathryn Crowley told the School Committee as much at the July meeting of the body held last week. The superintendent said the matter has been referred to the Policy Sub-Committee, composed of elected and administrative officials, for continued review.

The district is considering the recently announced guidelines proposed for opening by the Rhode Island Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control as it determines how best to approach the situation in city, she added.

The state and federal authorities suggest the continued use of masks in certain situations indoors, maintaining at least three feet of separation between pupils and staff in most settings and keeping students in stabilized groupings when feasible, whether in the classroom, the cafeteria, at recess or on buses. Each recommendation is similar, though not as stringent, to protocols put into place last year as schools re-opened for in-person learning following closure during the initial stages of the pandemic in the spring of 2020.

Key as well, districts will no longer be required to offer virtual instruction and no vaccination mandate has been put into place.

“There could be changes in the next few weeks,” Superintendent Crowley said, noting the situation around the pandemic and the state and federal guidance remains fluid. “We have no recommendations for you at this point. We will have them for our August (Tuesday, the 10th) meeting.”

Policy updates
In other matters pertaining to the Policy Sub-Committee, on which members Jessica Beauchaine and Jenni Azanero represent the full school board, it submitted a revised immunization outline for the district as well as a draft of updated residency requirements.

The immunization policy heard a second reading before the body and received unanimous School Committee approval for implementation. Ms. Beauchaine stressed it was not related to any mandates about the COVID-19 vaccine, rather it was an update to the district’s policy based on wording directly from RIDOH guidelines.

As for the residency policy, it received the first of two public readings during the July meeting. Ms. Azanero said the intention of the sub-group was to update language for “consistency” while seeking to make a bit more stringent, but the district could only so far as not overstep existing Rhode Island Department of Education guidelines on the matter.

Ms. Azanero added the updated residency requirements in the district, though, are now “pretty clear for parents and guardians to follow.”

The revised residency policy will likely be taken up for second and final approval at the School Committee August meeting.

Personnel matters
In presenting the most recent report on personnel matters to the committee, Superintendent Crowley made the body aware two EPHS Science teachers resigned their posts to take positions at Ponaganset High School in time for the '21-22 term.

The superintendent noted with some dismay the instructors were “recruited” to leave their former jobs. The district attempts to have departing employees fill out a questionnaire upon leaving, though it is a voluntary process.

Committee chair and At-Large member Joel Monteiro asked if the teachers had agreed to the exit interview, which they hadn’t as of the meeting. He said the responses are “important for us to know as a district what was the attraction” for the instructors to depart and if anything could be done in the future to avoid a similar situation.

On a related note, Superintendent Crowley said all teachers previously laid off as a temporary measure at the end of the 2020-21 term have been recalled back for the 2021-22 term.

Finance update
District Finance Director Craig Enos led the committee through the latest news from his department, emphasizing “we remain in good financial stead for the general fund.”

Mr. Enos said the administration has already begun use of a second round of federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding the district received as part of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act passed in December of 2020 by Congress.

Mr. Enos, who noted the district is obligated to allocate the funds by RIDE by the end of November 2021, explained the monies are being use to purchase updated Math curriculum materials, towards the current summer academic programs for the general population, enrichment for MLL (multi-language learning) and Special Education. As well, the district has hired a writing consultant to work at both middle schools.

In addition, Mr. Enos said upon the completion of the summer programs, the administration will review and potentially revise its ESSER II allocations towards other potential areas, if necessary.

A third tranche of ESSER money in the amount of some $11.8 million, both the superintendent and director said, is likely to come the district’s way shortly.

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