Back to School Letter 21-22

Back to School Letter 21-22
Posted on 08/23/2021
Dear NSS Community,

I hope you have had a nice summer and have found some time to relax and renew and connect with family and friends. I also hope you have weathered the recent storm without any major issues. It seems my home will be without power for an undetermined amount of time, and I hope you have either been able to maintain your electrical service or are restored shortly. I am grateful for the hard work of our first responders in maintaining our safety through the storm and for the line crews who get us back up and running!

I am excited for our full return to school and in-person learning on Wednesday, September 8th, and I know our teachers, administrators, and support staff are all looking forward to re-connecting with our students and families. Unfortunately, it is again necessary to put public health precautions in place for the first part of our school year due to the current local and national spike in Covid-10 cases, but we do so knowing that these mitigation strategies keep our children safe and enable us to keep schools open for in-person learning.

We have learned a great deal over the past 18 months, and have made adjustments to our practices in response to new data, scientific evidence, and guidelines from the Department of Health and CDC. Detailed below are some key areas of information that will allow all students and staff to remain as safe as possible while also supporting the academic, social, and emotional learning experiences so critical to each student’s growth and development.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Narragansett School System has adhered to the recommendations and requirements of the CDC and the Rhode Island Department of Health. This week, Governor McKee and the Rhode Island Department of Health announced a masking requirement for all public schools in Rhode Island. Additionally, this week the Narragansett School Committee approved a policy requiring masks when community transmission rates (i.e., in the Town of Narragansett) are at the moderate, substantial, or high levels as defined by the CDC below:

In our local policy, masks are highly recommended, but not required, for all unvaccinated individuals when the local transmission rate is low (blue). Our local mask policy is linked here. However, state requirements supersede local policy in all matters of public health.

The most recent local data can be found HERE. Week by week data is available on the “RIDOH Covid 19 Data” at the bottom of that webpage, also linked here.

Unfortunately, Narragansett is currently defined as being in high transmission (red), and I do not anticipate a decrease in the rate of transmission before the start of school. Per the Governor’s executive order, all faculty, staff, and students, regardless of vaccination status, are currently required to wear face masks when entering a district facility or attending school.

During sports and related activities, all athletes must follow the athletic guidance from the Rhode Island Principal’s Committee on Athletics, the Rhode Island Interscholastic League and the CDC based on the requirement of their individual sport. The fall guidelines can be found at the following link: RIIL Covid Information Fall 2021

Otherwise, masks/face coverings are not required for outdoor activities.

Masks/face coverings are required to be worn by everyone on the bus during school bus transportation by federal order unless guidance is updated.

All eligible students should consider vaccination against Covid-19- it is the best defense against infection and severe illness due to the virus. Information regarding vaccination can be found HERE.

The Narragansett School system will offer additional vaccination clinics when students under age 12 become eligible.

Students and staff should provide proof of vaccination status to the school nurse teacher assigned to their respective building(s). Failure to provide proof of vaccination will result in the individual being considered unvaccinated for the purposes of contact tracing or other public health requirements.

You may physically bring in your (or your child’s) card to the school nurse and verify vaccination status or a photocopy or picture of a vaccination record can be sent to our nurses at the following email addresses:
NHS: Mrs. Field, [email protected]
NPS: Mrs. Fair, [email protected]
NES: Mrs. Oberheu, [email protected]

Stay Home When Sick:
One of the most critical layers of protection for our entire community is a general commitment from students, parents, and staff to stay home when sick or after having been potentially exposed to Covid-19.

We ask that families, students, and staff screen for symptoms of illness and stay home if feeling sick.

According to the CDC:
People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. Anyone can have mild to severe symptoms. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:
• Fever or chills
• Cough
• Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
• Fatigue
• Muscle or body aches
• Headache
• New loss of taste or smell
• Sore throat
• Congestion or runny nose
• Nausea or vomiting
• Diarrhea

Please stay home and contact your physician if you exhibit any of the above symptoms.

Virtual/Distance Learning:
At this time, students who are sick or may be quarantined will be able to keep up with class through asynchronous learning, similar to what happened during professional development days last year. Teachers will continue to post assignments and resources for students who cannot attend in-person for short period of time (less than 10 days). For an extended illness, please contact your school principal to craft a plan that meets your student’s needs. Staying home when feeling ill is considered an excused absence and will not negatively impact a student’s grade.

Unless there is a (highly unlikely) scenario of an entire class or school being quarantined, we will not be “zooming” into classes this year on a daily basis. The benefits of in-person learning vs. accessing class over a screen have been widely documented, and, while we have the capacity to return to that format in an emergency situation, we are focused on in-person learning for the coming school year.

We will continue to have regular testing of unvaccinated students to prevent the spread of covid-19. Vaccinated students are exempt from testing unless requested. Similar to the Spring season, unvaccinated student-athletes will be required to test weekly to participate in sports.

At this time, we anticipate that all sports at the middle and high school levels will have a fall season.  Unvaccinated athletes must take part in weekly covid-19 screening tests in order to be eligible for participation. Please CLICK HERE for specific Interscholastic League information.

Busing and School Start Times:
Unlike last year, there is no longer a restriction on the number of students who may ride on a bus. If a student did not ride the bus last year but would like to do so this year, please contact our transportation department at 792-9440 or [email protected].

Per Federal regulation, all students and staff must wear masks while riding the bus.

A reminder that our school start times have been adjusted for the coming school year. Both the high school and middle school will begin at 8:00 AM and will share a bus run, and the elementary school will begin at 9:00 AM.

Unfortunately, staffing our transportation department continues to be a challenge. While we are adequately staffed for our home to school runs, we do anticipate some transportation challenges for sports and other extracurricular activities this fall. If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a bus monitor or driver, please visit our website HERE or call our Human Resources department at 792-9450.

We will be again using both indoor and outdoor space to enable students to eat lunch. At NES, students will use the cafeteria this year rather than eating in their classrooms.

Breakfast and lunch will again be without cost for the “standard” meal of the day for all students as a part of the Federal school lunch program response to the pandemic.

Finally, I would like to again thank you for your support of our students and staff throughout the pandemic. Your investment in the success of our schools and willingness to make adjustments and give feedback has enabled us all to return to school as safely as possible. If we all work together and take proper precautions, I am confident we will be able to maintain in-person learning. I look forward to the start of another great school year, and hope you all have the opportunity to fully enjoy these final days of Summer!

Peter J. Cummings, Ed. D