By DANIEL KITTREDGE As the city's public schools began the second week of the new academic year, Superintendent Jeannine Nota-Masse on Monday told the School Committee that the reopening process has been "e;successful"e; thus far. "e;We only have a week under
As the city’s public schools began the second week of the new academic year, Superintendent Jeannine Nota-Masse on Monday told the School Committee that the reopening process has been “successful” thus far.
“We only have a week under our belt, but I think it went well … I think it was a relief to finally get in the buildings and get the show on the road,” she said during the meeting, which was streamed over Zoom.
Nota-Masse said as of Monday, no cases of COVID-19 had been identified among students or staff present in the district’s school buildings.
The district is reopening with a phased, hybrid approach. Starting on Sept. 14, the district’s youngest students – those in pre-K through first grade – returned to school buildings full time, along with special needs students and language learners.
Starting on Sept. 29, students in grades two, three, six and nine are slated to return to classes on a limited basis. Students will be in classrooms two days a week, based on alphabetical groupings, with distance learning for all students on Mondays. On Oct. 12, the rest of the grades would return under the same approach.
Nota-Masse said roughly 20 percent of the student population has returned to schools during the first phase of the reopening. Students, she said, “seemed pretty happy” based on visits she and other administrators made to various schools.
The superintendent said transportation, which has been a concern, “went pretty well” during the first week. Many students were driven by parents or guardians, she said, but the district was able to ensure busing for students who required it and “very quickly” addressed any issues that arose.
Nota-Masse provided a similar take in terms of technology issues, acknowledging some “troubleshooting” has been required – and that some connectivity concerns remain in a couple of buildings – but saying, “generally, we’re doing well.”
“The reopening of our schools has been an incredible task … Everyone has done a noble job making sure that our schools are ready,” she said.
As the reopening process continues, the district has employed Robert Kyle Baker of R.K. Baker & Associates in a review of ventilation in school buildings.
Baker addressed the School Committee during its Sept. 14 work session, saying he had found acceptable “air change” levels – at least four an hour – in the buildings and classrooms he had reviewed to that point. He noted that some buildings have computerized or automated systems in place that provide for the needed air changes.
During Monday’s regular committee meeting, Ed Collins, the district’s director of plant operations, said roughly eight buildings had still to be reviewed in conjunction with Baker. He said all of the rooms and buildings evaluated within the prior week had also been found to have acceptable air change levels.
“We’re kind of where we thought we would be, and we’re just going to keep moving,” he said.
In another reopening-related issue, the committee on Monday approved a resolution to increase the daily pay rate for day-to-day substitute teachers to $100.
During last week’s work session, Michael Crudale, the district’s chief human resource officer, said Cranston’s schools have typically started day-to-day substitutes at $80 a day. That figure increases to $90 after 30 days and $100 after 60 days. He requested the increase to $100 as a starting point to “put us at least in a better bracket to compete with other districts.”
“We are in desperate need of substitute teachers,” he said.
The resolution was approved 5-0, with Ward 1 committee member Sara Tindall-Woodman abstaining and Ward 5 member David Alden-Sears absent.
The district has also advertised for long-term substitutes, specifically those with elementary and elementary special education certifications. Those positions carry daily rates of $225. Elsewhere in the district’s reopening updates:
* Seniors in Cranston’s career and technical education programs were set to return to classrooms Sept. 22, although like all students, they have the option to elect full distance learning instead. Nota-Masse has spoken of the need to return older CTE students to classrooms given the requirements they must meet for professional certifications. * The district on Monday began requiring families to submit attestations of daily COVID-19 symptom screenings for students through the online ASPEN portal. Officials have also raised the possibility of conducting temperature checks for arriving students. * Aramark, the district’s food service provider, is making grab-and-go breakfast and lunch meals available to all Cranston children through December, depending on the availability of funding. Meals can be picked up Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Pickup sites include Cranston High School East, Edgewood Highland Elementary School, George J. Peters Elementary School, Gladstone Elementary School, Hugh B. Bain Middle School, Arlington Elementary School and the Cranston YMCA.