WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — The COVID-19 pandemic forced teachers and students to change their routines but as kids in Warwick return to the classroom, they’ll be taught how to interact with one another in ways they haven’t been able to over the past few years.

“We’re kind of back to normal again,” said Lisa A. Schultz, Ph.D., Director of Curriculum at Warwick Public Schools.

For many students, that return to normal means a change to the routines they’ve become accustomed to since March 2020.

Masks are no longer mandatory, students don’t have to be in pods, schedules and bus routes will be different, and kids will be able to enjoy lunch and recess together, without COVID restrictions in place.

New this year, all grade levels will have to take “student discourse” which Schultz and Warwick Superintendent Lynn Dambruch said was influenced by the effects of the pandemic.

“They were in pods, wearing masks. It was difficult to have conversations, share ideas, do problem-solving together,” Dambruch said.

After years of social distancing and virtual learning, the “social discourse” instruction will teach students how to work together and interact with each other in a respectful way.

“It teaches students how to speak professionally, and gets them ready for college and career readiness,” Schultz said. “Have them learn in ways adults work together. Think about how we do our jobs every day. We have meetings, we work together nicely, and we collaborate. So having students have that experience again, moving out of rows and back into small groups, working on things together, that’s how we really think we’re going to move instruction here.”

The district also rolled out a new website that has everything students and parents need to know as they head into the school year.

Also new this year, the district is in the process of hiring a safety coordinator who will visit each school, update school safety plans, and even provide training to staff. The position is funded by grant money.

“With everything happening around the country, we are concerned about safety, it is a priority the safety coordinator will start next month, making sure everything is safe, the safety plans are up to date,” Dambruch said.

Soon, voters in Warwick will decide soon whether the city will get two new high schools.

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