By JOHN HOWELL With windows and doors open, as air purifying filters have yet to be delivered, Warwick about 540 kindergarteners will finally get to meet their teachers in-person and in their neighborhood school classrooms starting Oct. 14. On Tuesday
With windows and doors open, as air purifying filters have yet to be delivered, Warwick about 540 kindergarteners will finally get to meet their teachers in-person and in their neighborhood school classrooms starting Oct. 14.
On Tuesday with more than 800 viewers watching the Zoom meeting and after 90 minutes of reading parent comments – the majority favoring a reopening - the School Committee unanimously voted to the hybrid return of all elementary school students, K-5, by Nov. 15. Under the hybrid plan, students will have two days of in-person classes and two days of distance learning.
In addition to what the committee approved, Superintendent Philip Thornton said Wednesday he is hopeful of having 6th grade Vets Middle School students return under a hybrid plan shortly.
Initially, the School Committee looked to have the east wing of Vets open as a central kindergarten school while the department waited for the delivery of air filters in order to open neighborhood classrooms. Vets is one of three Warwick school buildings that has a HVAC system that meets air circulation requirements to mitigate the transmission of COVID-19.
Asked about Winman Middle School, Thornton said that building poses unique problems as many classrooms are without windows. He said engineers are evaluating the building, but at this time there is no plan to have Winman 6th graders attend classes.
“We are working with the state on that,” he said.
Thornton also said there is no established timetable for a return of secondary students.
Assistant superintendent and director of elementary schools, Lynn Dambruch is excited to have a plan for grades K-5. First grade students will start returning on Oct. 20; second grade on Oct. 22; third grade on Oct. 27, fourth grade on Oct 29 and fifth grade on Nov. 4.
The school administration had hoped with the acquisition of 60 filters from Amazon they would be able to open neighborhood school kindergartens. Thornton said the filters still haven’t arrived, however, thanks to a study performed by Arden Engineering Construction there is sufficient air flow to meet the guideline of four to six air changes per hour with a window opened 6 inches and classroom doors left open.
The department had planned to use box fans to meet the guideline, but that was nixed by the fire marshal who feared it would create a fire hazard. At that point, the department turned to air filters with the committee approving the acquisition of 1,200 devises. Thornton said the first 600 filters are scheduled for an Oct. 23 delivery.
Revisions in the allowable number of students on a bus from 22 to 36, Thornton said, has enabled the department the radius for walking from two miles to one mile. The department is looking at adding another 14 buses to address the elementary school hybrid plan.
Among the more than 40 comments made during the meeting are the following: “Please start in person learning as soon as possible. Remote learning is not working. This most recent survey has shown that the parents in the district want to send their children back to school for in person learning. Those parents who wish to keep their children home and continue to home school have that option. The parents who wish to send their children to school for in person learning are begging for the option to do so. The goal of the School Committee needs to be to make sure that the children in our district achieve educational success,” Brian Morse.
“My son is a 6 year old in first grade in the Warwick school system. We, like many others have had a trying first few weeks of distance learning. One of the biggest battles was his assessment tests these past two weeks. In a matter of minutes, it turned into complete chaos. I have NEVER seen my son get so frustrated. He put his head in his shirt and gave up. It was obviously noticed by his teacher, because the following day before proceeding with testing, she spoke with him about being frustrated and then encouraged him; however, the frustration level came back during testing and continued throughout the day. His attention to his classes is not there. He either zones out, gets up from his seat, or talks while the teacher speaks asking for breaks and I cannot fault him for doing this, as a 6 year old should not have to sit in front of a computer screen for that many hours throughout the day. It is not realistic and frankly, it is not fair. And having children not in a school setting makes it much worse. There are too many distractions on top of everything else.I have witnessed my son have complete meltdowns, give up, and have so much anxiety due to distance learning. A 6 year old is just beginning their years of schooling and this should be a fun and exciting time for them; however, it has turned more into a chore and who wants to do chores? Bring these children back to in person learning so the teachers can give them all the education they deserve and need.”
Regards, Jen McCullah
“I am writing to express my concerns as you begin to think about reopening schools. I understanding that they are pros and cons to this whole situation and understand that which ever way the vote happens to go there are going to be upset parents. With that being said I am asking that you keep the health and safety of the children and school staff in mind. Just two short months ago the Warwick school committee took a vote to begin the year with distance learning. This vote was taken with the health and safety of our children and staff in mind.At that time the concern was proper ventilation, yet we are voting today to send children into the same buildings which still are facing the same problem, ventilation. The school still will not have the proper ventilation as the filters which were ordered are now on back order. My question to you is what has change, how is it now safe? Over the past several year safety has been a top priority within our schools. Children have practiced locked downs, shelter in place as well as evacuations in the event that an intruder enters the building through securely locked interior and exterior doors. As we look to open our schools, safety is no longer a priority. Recommendations are that interior and exterior doors and windows are open to ensure proper air flow for the virus. Although this may keep the virus out we leaving our children open to a possible physical harm. My question to you is what has change, how is it now safe?
There is much talk about how children need for school for socialization. How is this going to happen when children are required to remain six feet apart. Children, especially young children, cannot be expected to stay six feet away from everyone else during an entire school day. Even if a school has the room, it’s just not going to happen. One adult can’t keep eyes on a all children every second of every hour of every day to ensure they don’t drift into each others’ spaces while making sure they are wearing their PPE properly. You certainly can’t do that and teach! Young children are simply not developmentally able to remember to keep themselves distanced from their friend who they have come to school to socialize with.
I would like to end by thanking the Warwick school teachers for all their efforts in making sure that distance learning is successful. I feel teachers have gone above and beyond to ensure students are receiving a quality education while they continue to build positive relationships with students and families.
When voting tonight I am asking you to please keep the safety and well being of our students and staff as the number one priority.”
A concerned parent