Letter from Dr. Barnes dated 9/9/20

Letter from Dr. Barnes dated 9/9/20
Posted on 09/11/2020
From: Michael Barnes <[email protected]>
Date: Wed, Sep 9, 2020 at 6:34 PM
Subject: PMS / PHS School Reopening Family 9-9-2020

Hi All,

As I’m sure you are aware the Governor announced that all districts, with the exception of Providence and Central Falls, will be returning to school on September 14th. We are excited to see everyone returning next week. 

Governor’s Decision to Reopen School Starting September 14, 2020

The School Reopening Plan we submitted to the state included family choice. This enabled our families to select full in-person learning, hybrid learning, or full virtual learning. Although the Governor announced the option for a staggered start for schools through October 13, 2020, we plan to fully implement the reopening plan with the three options we shared with our families beginning on September 14th. We do not anticipate making any changes to these three options on October 13th as we are not implementing a staggered opening and we are implementing the plan we submitted to the state.    

Accordingly, on Monday, September 14th all in-person students will return to school. On Tuesday the 15th and Wednesday the 16th Group A hybrid students will join the full in-person students and will engage virtually on Monday, Thursday and Friday. On Thursday the 17th and Fridays the 18th Group B hybrid students will join our full in-person students and engage virtually on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

Distribution of Windows Laptops and Chromebooks

In our last email we announced three days for families and students to pick up laptops and chromebooks. Please note the third and final day for our families to pick-up laptops/chromebooks before the start of school is this Thursday, September 10th from 11:00AM - 6:00PM. All middle and high school families may pick up student devices at the high school using the following protocol:

  1. Families will remain in their car,
  2. Register with a greeter,
  3. Proceed around the front circle of the high school, and
  4. Devices will be delivered to the vehicles in an assembly line format.

Again, all student devices are being distributed at PHS.

Transportation Bus Routes

We submitted the opt-in Transportation information to our local bus companies. They are actively assigning students to stable groups based on the requests of our families. We expect those lists to be complete and published by the end of the week. 

Student Drop Off and Pick Up Procedures

Information about the time, location, and procedures to drop off and pick up students will be communicated separately by the school principal.  

Student Class Schedules

The middle and high school schedules were locked down last week after all the family requests for full in-person learning, hybrid learning, and virtual learning were coded in the system. The schedules, which show the specific course section and teacher, are currently published in ASPEN. Students / families are able to login to ASPEN and view their class schedule. Please note, we are working to balance the number of students in individual classes and we expect those changes to be complete by the end of the day on Friday. As separate email is being sent from Ms. Patricia Marcotte, the Director of 6-12 Student Support Services, with more information about schedules.   

Shared Responsibility

Reopening and maintaining safe schools effectively is an effort that requires shared responsibility among students, parents, staff, teachers, and administrators. We all have a role ensuring that students and adults consistently implement the RI Department of Health (RIDOH) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommended practices. This will include, but not be limited to, ensuring children and adults properly wear masks, maintaining state-recommended social distance, adhering to established procedures for traveling in corridors, and remaining home when sick or required to isolate/quarantine, among others.

Proper Mask Wearing Procedures

Mask wearing is consistently recommended as an important component of the layered COVID-19 mitigation system outlined below. To ensure we maximize the mitigation benefits of mask wearing, parents and guardians should consistently instruct their children on the importance of mask wearing and social distancing. Everyone must wear a mask that fits properly, fully covering the mouth and nose, and refrain from removing or lowering the mask to be heard better – whether in a large group, small group, or even pairs. If adults are vigilant in our own application of proper techniques, then it is more likely children will consistently adhere to the established procedures.

Below is a link to the CDC document on how to select, wear, and clean your mask. This is a document everyone should read so you understand proper techniques.


Layered Approach to COVID-19 Mitigation

We are using the guidance put forth by the CDD and the RIDOH to guide our school reopening plans, protocols, and procedures. This guidance calls for a layer approach of interrelated strategies to maximize the effectiveness of COVID-19 mitigation efforts. These include but are not limited to:

Required Mask Wearing – As outlined above, it is important that all students and staff properly wear masks and face coverings. 

Social Distancing – The recommended distance is 6’ in most settings although the guidance does permit distancing to be reduced to 3’. We have set up our classes with desks 6’ apart and will maintain that distance, or as close to 6’ as possible, unless student enrollment requires distances of 5-1/2’, 5’ etc.  Other settings (music, physical education, etc.) recommend 14’ of distance.

Ventilation and Air Circulation – The recommended atmospheric changes in a room are 4 to 8 exchanges per hour. We ordered, proactively, 17 HEPA filters, which purify the air, in case a system fails or a need for increased circulation/purification arises.

Cleaning and Disinfecting Surfaces – We are implementing a cleaning regime that includes frequent attention to high-touch surfaces, nightly cleaning of surfaces, and a disinfecting spray.

Other Strategies – Other strategies include, but are not limited to, one directional hallways, assigned seating for contract tracing, maintaining small group sizes, other forms of PPE, and implementing the RIDOH Playbook.

High School Athletics - Partial Return of Sports - Rhode Island Interscholastic League (RIIL)

This week the RIIL announced that several sports have been approved by Governor Gina Raimondo for team competition this fall with safety modifications: Boys Cross Country, Girls Cross Country, Girls Tennis, Sideline Cheer, Boys Soccer, Girls Soccer and Field Hockey. There are a number of protocols that need to be worked out to enable our students to safely engage in athletics.

In accordance with the Governor’s guidelines for high school sports, Football, Girls Volleyball and Unified Volleyball have not been approved for team competition this fall. The RIIL will be adopting a four-season model and Football, Volleyball, and Unified Volleyball not will be moved to Season 3 with the hope they may be played later in the year with a start date to be determined. 

The RIIL is moving the start date of fall sports from Monday, September 14 to Monday, September 21. In addition, the summer coaches contact period has been extended to Sunday, September 13. (Coaches must still obtain school approval and follow all current guidelines and restrictions.) 
Middle School Athletics – Postponed - RI Principal’s Committee on Athletics (RIPCOA)

This week the RIPCOA announced that middle level sports were postponed until the Spring. RIPCOA has been working in conjunction with the RIIL to plan and prepare for a return to middle school sports, when it is safe and appropriate within a middle school environment.  At this time RIPCOA has made the decision to postpone the fall season. Please keep in mind that there were many factors RIPCOA considered when making this decision: the stable pods utilized by many middle schools, the available length of season, site for play, officials, and transportation. RIPCOA is working with the RIIL to develop a plan to move the fall season to sometime around March. Additional information will be sent to member schools as soon as possible.  

Please note, student athletes are NOT allowed to participate in any school sponsored practice or play outside of the season.  Please direct any questions to the RIPCOA Board.

State of Rhode Island  Walk Through Support Team Visit

Last Friday, Captain Isaac Paine, Ponaganset Middle School and Ponaganset High School hosted a two-person team from the State. The team lead asked a series of questions on a predetermined checklist and then we toured some of our classrooms, our cafeterias, our athletic facilities, and our COVID-19 isolation rooms. The purpose of the visit was to verify that the school had completed the state-required preparations and to answer any questions that we may have. I’m happy to report that the team was pleased with our preparations. The State visiting team did clarify the role of fans in schools. Fans cannot be pointed at any students and adults. If used, they must point at the ceiling or point toward an open window. They also recommended setting a timer on your phone to go off after 10 minutes if you are moving around a room working with individual/groups of students as a close contact is defined as being within 6’ of some for more than 15 minutes. 

Closing Thoughts

Thank you for your patience, flexibility and support. Safely returning to school will require us all to implement, and consistently adhere to, new practices and procedures. Together, we will face this challenge. We remain committed to providing personalized learning environments for our students. We are looking forward to welcoming our students back to school beginning Monday, September 14th.  


Michael Barnes

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