October 30, 2020
Dear Students, Staff, and Families,
I hope everyone is doing well during this period of time when the number of positive Covid-19 cases in Rhode Island and across the country are increasing at a rapid rate. As you know, Cumberland has been significantly impacted. In the last two weeks, we have had to address positive cases in the preschool, McCourt Middle School, North Cumberland Middle School and the High School. The latest covid related decision impacted the high school today with the decision to close the school and make it a distance learning day. We had to make this decision because of the number of staff who were not able to report to school. We would not have been able to cover all of the classes. Unfortunately, we will probably be making similar decisions in the future.
Listed below are a number of items for your review:
The single most important thing that students, staff, and families need to know is that every space where students and staff meet is safe. Every space meets the 4 plus air exchanges per hour. The spaces that do not meet the 4 plus air exchanges per hour, have had an air purification unit installed to meet that standard. We recently met with representatives of the state’s Education Operations Center and they confirmed that we are meeting the ventilation guidelines.
One of the major concerns superintendents from around the state are expressing is the significant delay in the Rhode Island Department of Health’s ability to complete contact tracing in a timely manner. Unfortunately, RIDOH is overwhelmed given the significant increase in positive cases and there is a delay in the process. As a result, the State is hiring 100 new employees to improve the contact tracing response time.
Given the delay in RIDOH’s response time, we have been in a position to cancel in-person learning and require distance learning for the day or days. We have done this out of an abundance of caution. Please know that our goal is to get our students physically in school. It is impossible for us to do that when we do not have the information we need from the RIDOH.
The pandemic is impacting just about every facet of our work. As you may have heard, 15 Durham drivers have been quarantined. Durham is able to meet their responsibility of transporting Cumberland students to and from school. However, that many drivers in quarantine is creating challenges for the bus company.
In addition to the impact that Covid-19 has had on schools, athletics has been impacted as well. Last week, 6 of Cumberland’s competitions were cancelled because of positive cases in the schools we were scheduled to compete against. We had to cancel a soccer game and field hockey game this week due to the positive case in our high school.
Despite all of the unanticipated consequences of this situation we find ourselves in, I must commend our administrators and staff for the work they are doing. I am convinced that our educators are being challenged more than they ever have. I appreciate their effort and I want to acknowledge the good work they are doing despite the many challenges they face.
You will soon be hearing from your child’s school about parent teacher conferences. Principals and their staff are in the process of identifying dates.
As always, please know that we will always make decisions based on the health and safety of our students and staff. We appreciate your support and understanding during this difficult time.
Robert A. Mitchell
Superintendent of Schools