Supt. Alexis Meyer announced Sunday that students at Cole Middle School and EGHS could return to full in-person learning – “contingent upon the issuance of revised [state health] guidelines” – on Monday, April 26. Those schools have been operating on a hybrid schedule (half in-person, half distance) all year, unlike the four K-5 schools, which have been in person five days a week since October. It all has to do with COVID-19 safeguards.
In her weekly “field memo,” Meyer said she would present the plan to the School Committee at its April 6 meeting “for discussion and approval.”
Among the reasons she cited for allowing this move – again, contingent on changes from the state Department of Health – are:
- Teachers and staff will be able to be fully vaccinated by April 1. Two weeks beyond the second dose is what health officials say provides maximum protection – that would be April 15
- Warmer weather will allow for more opened windows and increased circulation
- More outdoor time for classes and lunch periods using existing space and tents
The annual spring break takes place April 19-23 and Meyer said the break would allow staff to arrange school spaces to accommodate more students.
One challenge for the district has been transportation; changes in RIDOH guidelines could allow for more students per bus. Meyer said the district is working with 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 memo reads. If ridership ends up being lower than anticipated, additional riders could be eligible for bus transportation.
As outlined, there would be no more “hybrid” schedule after April break: students would either attend school in person five days a week or do distance learning five days a week. Temporary distance learning will be available, however, for students who need to be home “due to a COVID-related matter” such as awaiting test results; a positive test but few or no symptoms; or quarantining due to a close contact. No other temporary distance learning would be available.
Students who have been distance learning because of their own or a family member’s health condition could attend full in-person school once they or the family member are fully vaccinated, if they desire.
School Committee Chair Anne Musella said she was hopeful about the potential return.
“Mrs. Meyer lays out the numerous factors that our administrators have had to navigate throughout the year, and now, as we consider increasing in-person learning at the secondary level,” she said via email Sunday. “At the April 6 meeting, our administrators will provide additional details that will help inform the School Committee’s decision, such as room capacity, flow, transportation, and other logistics, which depend in part upon how many students will be in the buildings. I am hopeful that by April 6, RIDOH and RIDE will communicate updated guidance and supports. We all want our students to thrive, and we still must proceed with caution. Meanwhile, it is critical that all families complete the form to select full distance or full in-person learning.”
A link to that form is HERE.
Parent Peter Carney, who has been one of the more public voices pushing for a return to full in-person school, said he was happy to read Supt. Meyer’s memo.
“It’s great to see a specific date for the district’s full return put forward by the superintendent,” he said via email. “It certainly is a logical timeline given the dates for teacher vaccinations and I hope the district’s path is now clear to focus totally on the educational and social/emotional recovery of our community’s students.”
You can see Meyer’s full in-person return memo here: Overview of Return to Full In-Person Learning at the Secondary Level in SY 20-21. Parents with questions are invited to email Meyer at [email protected] or Asst. Supt. Michael Podraza at [email protected].