NEWS

Schools to open with lots of rules

Warwick School Committee and administrators decided to postpone the first day of school for some buildings until Sept. 8

By ARDEN BASTIA
Posted 8/26/21

By ARDEN BASTIA As parents, teachers, and students prepare for a new school year, Superintendent Lynn Dambruch and Assistant Superintendent William McCaffrey shared details on the 2021-2022 school year ahead of the school committee meeting on Wednesday.

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NEWS

Schools to open with lots of rules

Warwick School Committee and administrators decided to postpone the first day of school for some buildings until Sept. 8

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On Wednesday night, post-publication, the Warwick School Committee and administrators decided to postpone the first day of school for some buildings until Sept. 8 “due to multiple supply chain issues and delays” leading to unfinished construction projects, read an email sent to Warwick families on Wednesday night.

ADA construction projects at Greenwood, Robertson, Sherman and Oakland Beach Elementary Schools, as well as the WELC and Warwick Veterans Middle School will not be completed in time for the building and grounds staff to finish their summer cleaning, according to a presentation from Steve Gothberg, director of construction and capital projects, at the School Committee meeting. The first day for these schools will be Wednesday, Sept. 8. Three makeup days will be added to the calendar for those schools in June.

“We’ve done our best, we hope to have [the projects] done by Friday,” said Gothberg at the meeting. “At that point, we can move forward with the cleaning. This does cause us to delay the opening of schools.”

As parents, teachers, and students

prepare for a new school year, Superintendent Lynn Dambruch and Assistant Superintendent William McCaffrey shared details on the 2021-2022 school year ahead of the school committee meeting on Wednesday.

The district’s reopening plans were slated to be presented at the school committee meeting at Warwick Veterans Middle School Wednesday night.

Dambruch and McCaffrey touched upon mask requirements, quarantine protocols, transportation, building repairs, curriculum updates, and more, all with the goal of keeping students in the classroom five days a week.

Damrbuch and McCaffrey must provide the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) with the district’s reopening plans by August 27. The district-wide plans will be available on the school department’s website at that time. Each Warwick school must provide an individual reopening plan that covers “specific logistics and layouts like arrival and dismissal routines,” said McCaffrey. Parents and students will be alerted to these plans on Friday, and will also be available on the school department’s website and individual school’s website.

The first day of school for students in kindergarten through grade 5 and for students in grade 9 is Wednesday, Sept. 1. All students, including those in pre-k, will start on Thursday, Sept. 2. Staff professional development will be held on August 30 and 31.

Cathy Bonang, secretary to the Superintendent, shared in a brief interview on Monday that approximately 8,500 students are registered for this school year.

Bonang said that school enrollment is typically high in the beginning of the year, but will drop as the year continues. Bonang also noted that this year’s enrollment numbers are lower than in years past.

Per an executive order from Gov. Dan McKee, facemasks will be required for all students, teachers, and staff in Warwick schools.

McCaffrey said administration “will continue to comply with the executive order, and we’ll reevaluate should that order go away.”

Students at elementary schools and the Warwick Area Career and Tech Center will stay in stable pods, while students at the middle and high schools will change classes throughout the day.

Just like last year, free breakfast and lunch will continue to be provided for all students.

Quarantine protocol

“Last year, we had the strictest quarantine suggested by the CDC and the Department of Health,” said Dambruch.

This year, however, students and faculty who test positive or are a close contact only need to quarantine for 7 days. If a PCR test comes back negative, they are allowed to return to school on day 8, according to Dambruch. Otherwise, students and teachers will continue to quarantine until a PCR tests returns negative.

“We’re still promoting hand sanitizer and hand washing, and distancing in hallways,” said McCaffrey.

According to a presentation from RIDE and the Rhode Island Department of Health available on the RIDOH website, students or family members who refuse to get tested if told they’re a close contact will be treated as if they have a positive case of COVID. The individual will have to isolate for 10 days along with household contacts. School contacts should be tested upon learning they are a close contact, and then get tested again 5 to 10 days after contact exposure, but don’t need to quarantine.

According to the presentation, a K-12 student exposed to another K-12 student infected with COVID does not need to quarantine if the exposure occurred in a stable pod in the classroom, both the exposed close contact student and the infected student wore facemasks at all times, and at least three feet of physical distance was maintained at all times during exposure. This exception doesn’t apply to teachers, staff, or other adults in the indoor classroom setting.

McCaffrey said Warwick Schools applied for an Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity (ELC) grant from the CDC that would allow one full-time school nurse and one part-time school nurse to be hired by the district.

The $400,000 grant based on $50 per student in the district will allow one nurse to staff the Toll Gate campus full-time, and a part-time nurse to visit different schools to take random COVID test samples from students who’s parents gave previous permission.

School nurses will be utilizing BinaxNOW rapid tests to collect random samples, and to test students who show symptoms during the school day. Symptomatic students will be required to get a PCR test as well.

If a teacher or secondary student is vaccinated, they do not need to quarantine unless they are symptomatic, according to McCaffrey.

“This definitely motivates the ones who haven’t been vaccinated,” said Dambruch.

The vaccine is “highly recommended” for teachers and staff, said Dambruch, “but at this time we are not requiring it.”

Per the CDC, when multiple stable pods are together, for example in the auditorium or cafeteria, students must remain six feet apart. In stable pods in the classroom, students can be anywhere from zero to three feet apart.

McCaffrey said that schools like Pilgrim, Warwick Vets, Winman, and Toll Gate will utilize outdoor courtyard spaces as much as possible during class and lunchtime.

“At the elementary level, we’re trying to see how many students we can fit in the cafeteria, so it may start out as a hybrid model with classes taking turns to eat in the cafeteria or their classroom,” said McCaffrey. “The distance is imperative because students won’t wear masks when they eat.”

Curriculum updates

To better assess the gaps in student learning from the previous year, Dambruch said diagnostic testing for all students would take place in September.

“The idea is that these tests will give teachers an idea of where to guide instruction and give insight to where a student falls or what strengths and skills they might have,” she said.

Students in elementary and middle school students will take the iReady test, and high school students will take the STAR test.

“The curriculum office has analyzed data from last year and students seem to be above average in many areas, which is great concerning COVID last year,” said Dambruch. “This year, we’re focusing on acceleration, not remediation.”

Warwick Schools received a second federal grant from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) that allows for a math interventionist and reading specialist in every school.

“Previously, those positions were part-time and specialists were divided between schools,” said Dambruch, adding that these specialists along with small group instruction in the classroom, can help students make up the gaps in learning.

She also mentioned that some funds from the ESSER grant had been put aside to develop after school enrichment programs to provide extra help to students.

While distance learning won’t be offered this school year, technology will still play an important role in the classroom.

“We’ve also asked teachers to set up Google Classrooms everyday for students who are absent to take part in anytime learning,” said Dambruch, who was “so happy to share that the district is 1:1 with technology”, meaning every student in the district has access to a Chromebook.

Additionally, each classroom in the district now has a Promethean Board, an interactive, touch screen whiteboard that allows teachers to project images from a laptop to engage students in multi-sensory learning.

Transportation

At the School Committee meeting on Aug. 10, School Committee members voted to amend the approved walking distances for students.

With the new policy, students in kindergarten through grade 5 must be farther than .75 miles to receive transportation. Middle school students must be farther than 1.75 miles, and high school students must be farther than 2 miles to be eligible for transportation.

With 63 buses in the fleet, transportation will be provided to all schools.

Facemasks and seating charts will be required on all buses.

“We’re so happy to have a regular bus schedule and get our buses up and running,” said McCaffrey.

For a complete bus schedule, visit the Warwick School Department website.

Student athletes on buses will also be required to wear masks and maintain a seating chart.

At sporting events and games, masks are option for coaches, spectators, and players if the event is outdoors, but masks are required for all if the event in indoors.

In the event of an athletic team outbreak, RIDE, RIDOH, and the Rhode Island Interscholastic League will handle all quarantine protocols and testing information.

New faces

Some schools can also expect new faces among the administration.

Joseph Coffey, formerly principal at Holliman Elementary School, is now the principal at Warwick Veterans Middle School. He replaces Adam Heywood who will now serve as the principal of Winman Middle School. Michelle Devine has been appointed as the new assistant principal of teaching and learning at Vets. She was previously a music teacher at Vets.

Kim Cabana has been appointed the new principal at Holliman Elementary School. Cabana joins Warwick Public Schools from Providence, where she worked as a reading coach before becoming vice principal of Veazie Street Elementary School.

Park Elementary School also has a new principal, Dan Sylvestre, who originally hails from Plymouth, MA.

Longtime Warwick substitute Frank Galligan will fill the principal position at Warwick Neck Elementary School. He was previously the long-term sub for Norwood Elementary principal Dr. Sabrina Antonelli while she was on maternity leave.

Building repairs

On Monday, the Beacon received a report that mold had been found at Sherman Elementary School.

The email included a screenshot of an email from Sherman Principal Charlee McElroy to staff and faculty.

According to the email, McElroy and school secretary Kathy Wickham were in the building when the mold was discovered and were asked to leave immediately. A professional abatement team has been hired to remove the mold, however, the timeline on the project is unknown.

“The team will be working days, nights and weekend to accomplish this task and hopefully it will be done soon,” McElroy wrote.

However, as of now, no teachers or administrators are allowed in the building, making preparations for the first day of school difficult. “We cannot even enter the building to get things, because they tell me it can stir up the mold spores,” wrote McElroy.

At the time of publication, Dambruch and McCaffrey did not anticipate the mold delaying the start of school.

However, Dambruch did point out that there were unfinished projects at Robertson, Oakland Beach, Greenwood, and Sherman Elementary Schools, as well as the WELC and Career and Tech Center.

“We have many projects going on at the schools, and it’s difficult to get into every school right now,” she said, adding that building repairs will continue into the fall.

“We’re willing to open schools on weekends and staff custodians at night,” said Dambruch. “We’re going to be very accommodating to teachers who need extra time to start working in their classrooms.”

Dambruch said the projects “may possibly delay the start of school by a few days for students in those buildings” but have not made a call for sure until an updated timeline is presented by Steve Gothberg, director of construction and capital projects, and Kevin Oliver facilities maintenance and operations manager. Neither Gothberg nor Oliver could be reached by the time of publication, but did present the timelines at the School Committee meeting on Wednesday night.

As parents, teachers, and students

prepare for a new school year, Superintendent Lynn Dambruch and Assistant Superintendent William McCaffrey shared details on the 2021-2022 school year ahead of the school committee meeting on Wednesday.

The district’s reopening plans were slated to be presented at the school committee meeting at Warwick Veterans Middle School Wednesday night.

Dambruch and McCaffrey touched upon mask requirements, quarantine protocols, transportation, building repairs, curriculum updates, and more, all with the goal of keeping students in the classroom five days a week.

Damrbuch and McCaffrey must provide the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) with the district’s reopening plans by August 27. The district-wide plans will be available on the school department’s website at that time. Each Warwick school must provide an individual reopening plan that covers “specific logistics and layouts like arrival and dismissal routines,” said McCaffrey. Parents and students will be alerted to these plans on Friday, and will also be available on the school department’s website and individual school’s website.

The first day of school for students in kindergarten through grade 5 and for students in grade 9 is Wednesday, Sept. 1. All students, including those in pre-k, will start on Thursday, Sept. 2. Staff professional development will be held on August 30 and 31.

Cathy Bonang, secretary to the Superintendent, shared in a brief interview on Monday that approximately 8,500 students are registered for this school year.

Bonang said that school enrollment is typically high in the beginning of the year, but will drop as the year continues. Bonang also noted that this year’s enrollment numbers are lower than in years past.

Per an executive order from Gov. Dan McKee, facemasks will be required for all students, teachers, and staff in Warwick schools.

McCaffrey said administration “will continue to comply with the executive order, and we’ll reevaluate should that order go away.”

Students at elementary schools and the Warwick Area Career and Tech Center will stay in stable pods, while students at the middle and high schools will change classes throughout the day.

Just like last year, free breakfast and lunch will continue to be provided for all students.

Quarantine protocol

“Last year, we had the strictest quarantine suggested by the CDC and the Department of Health,” said Dambruch.

This year, however, students and faculty who test positive or are a close contact only need to quarantine for 7 days. If a PCR test comes back negative, they are allowed to return to school on day 8, according to Dambruch. Otherwise, students and teachers will continue to quarantine until a PCR tests returns negative.

“We’re still promoting hand sanitizer and hand washing, and distancing in hallways,” said McCaffrey.

According to a presentation from RIDE and the Rhode Island Department of Health available on the RIDOH website, students or family members who refuse to get tested if told they’re a close contact will be treated as if they have a positive case of COVID. The individual will have to isolate for 10 days along with household contacts. School contacts should be tested upon learning they are a close contact, and then get tested again 5 to 10 days after contact exposure, but don’t need to quarantine.

According to the presentation, a K-12 student exposed to another K-12 student infected with COVID does not need to quarantine if the exposure occurred in a stable pod in the classroom, both the exposed close contact student and the infected student wore facemasks at all times, and at least three feet of physical distance was maintained at all times during exposure. This exception doesn’t apply to teachers, staff, or other adults in the indoor classroom setting.

McCaffrey said Warwick Schools applied for an Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity (ELC) grant from the CDC that would allow one full-time school nurse and one part-time school nurse to be hired by the district.

The $400,000 grant based on $50 per student in the district will allow one nurse to staff the Toll Gate campus full-time, and a part-time nurse to visit different schools to take random COVID test samples from students who’s parents gave previous permission.

School nurses will be utilizing BinaxNOW rapid tests to collect random samples, and to test students who show symptoms during the school day. Symptomatic students will be required to get a PCR test as well.

If a teacher or secondary student is vaccinated, they do not need to quarantine unless they are symptomatic, according to McCaffrey.

“This definitely motivates the ones who haven’t been vaccinated,” said Dambruch.

The vaccine is “highly recommended” for teachers and staff, said Dambruch, “but at this time we are not requiring it.”

Per the CDC, when multiple stable pods are together, for example in the auditorium or cafeteria, students must remain six feet apart. In stable pods in the classroom, students can be anywhere from zero to three feet apart.

McCaffrey said that schools like Pilgrim, Warwick Vets, Winman, and Toll Gate will utilize outdoor courtyard spaces as much as possible during class and lunchtime.

“At the elementary level, we’re trying to see how many students we can fit in the cafeteria, so it may start out as a hybrid model with classes taking turns to eat in the cafeteria or their classroom,” said McCaffrey. “The distance is imperative because students won’t wear masks when they eat.”

Curriculum updates

To better assess the gaps in student learning from the previous year, Dambruch said diagnostic testing for all students would take place in September.

“The idea is that these tests will give teachers an idea of where to guide instruction and give insight to where a student falls or what strengths and skills they might have,” she said.

Students in elementary and middle school students will take the iReady test, and high school students will take the STAR test.

“The curriculum office has analyzed data from last year and students seem to be above average in many areas, which is great concerning COVID last year,” said Dambruch. “This year, we’re focusing on acceleration, not remediation.”

Warwick Schools received a second federal grant from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) that allows for a math interventionist and reading specialist in every school.

“Previously, those positions were part-time and specialists were divided between schools,” said Dambruch, adding that these specialists along with small group instruction in the classroom, can help students make up the gaps in learning.

She also mentioned that some funds from the ESSER grant had been put aside to develop after school enrichment programs to provide extra help to students.

While distance learning won’t be offered this school year, technology will still play an important role in the classroom.

“We’ve also asked teachers to set up Google Classrooms everyday for students who are absent to take part in anytime learning,” said Dambruch, who was “so happy to share that the district is 1:1 with technology”, meaning every student in the district has access to a Chromebook.

Additionally, each classroom in the district now has a Promethean Board, an interactive, touch screen whiteboard that allows teachers to project images from a laptop to engage students in multi-sensory learning.

Transportation

At the School Committee meeting on Aug. 10, School Committee members voted to amend the approved walking distances for students.

With the new policy, students in kindergarten through grade 5 must be farther than .75 miles to receive transportation. Middle school students must be farther than 1.75 miles, and high school students must be farther than 2 miles to be eligible for transportation.

With 63 buses in the fleet, transportation will be provided to all schools.

Facemasks and seating charts will be required on all buses.

“We’re so happy to have a regular bus schedule and get our buses up and running,” said McCaffrey.

For a complete bus schedule, visit the Warwick School Department website.

Student athletes on buses will also be required to wear masks and maintain a seating chart.

At sporting events and games, masks are option for coaches, spectators, and players if the event is outdoors, but masks are required for all if the event in indoors.

In the event of an athletic team outbreak, RIDE, RIDOH, and the Rhode Island Interscholastic League will handle all quarantine protocols and testing information.

New faces

Some schools can also expect new faces among the administration.

Joseph Coffey, formerly principal at Holliman Elementary School, is now the principal at Warwick Veterans Middle School. He replaces Adam Heywood who will now serve as the principal of Winman Middle School. Michelle Devine has been appointed as the new assistant principal of teaching and learning at Vets. She was previously a music teacher at Vets.

Kim Cabana has been appointed the new principal at Holliman Elementary School. Cabana joins Warwick Public Schools from Providence, where she worked as a reading coach before becoming vice principal of Veazie Street Elementary School.

Park Elementary School also has a new principal, Dan Sylvestre, who originally hails from Plymouth, MA.

Longtime Warwick substitute Frank Galligan will fill the principal position at Warwick Neck Elementary School. He was previously the long-term sub for Norwood Elementary principal Dr. Sabrina Antonelli while she was on maternity leave.

Building repairs

On Monday, the Beacon received a report that mold had been found at Sherman Elementary School.

The email included a screenshot of an email from Sherman Principal Charlee McElroy to staff and faculty.

According to the email, McElroy and school secretary Kathy Wickham were in the building when the mold was discovered and were asked to leave immediately. A professional abatement team has been hired to remove the mold, however, the timeline on the project is unknown.

“The team will be working days, nights and weekend to accomplish this task and hopefully it will be done soon,” McElroy wrote.

However, as of now, no teachers or administrators are allowed in the building, making preparations for the first day of school difficult. “We cannot even enter the building to get things, because they tell me it can stir up the mold spores,” wrote McElroy.

At the time of publication, Dambruch and McCaffrey did not anticipate the mold delaying the start of school.

However, Dambruch did point out that there were unfinished projects at Robertson, Oakland Beach, Greenwood, and Sherman Elementary Schools, as well as the WELC and Career and Tech Center.

“We have many projects going on at the schools, and it’s difficult to get into every school right now,” she said, adding that building repairs will continue into the fall.

“We’re willing to open schools on weekends and staff custodians at night,” said Dambruch. “We’re going to be very accommodating to teachers who need extra time to start working in their classrooms.”

Dambruch said the projects “may possibly delay the start of school by a few days for students in those buildings” but have not made a call for sure until an updated timeline is presented by Steve Gothberg, director of construction and capital projects, and Kevin Oliver facilities maintenance and operations manager. Neither Gothberg nor Oliver could be reached by the time of publication, but did present the timelines at the School Committee meeting on Wednesday night.

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