NORTH SMITHFIELD, R.I. (WPRI) – The R.I. Department of Education is not ready to approve North Smithfield’s proposal for virtual snow days.
In a letter to the school department, RIDE officials asked for additional information and a number of clarifications before they can reconsider recommending approval to the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education.
North Smithfield was the first public school district in the state that submitted a plan to take advantage of a 2017 state law designed to curb interruptions during the school year and prevent classes from running until the end of June.
Among RIDE’s concerns with the North Smithfield proposal is the department’s ability to account for the range of supports needed by both students who don’t have family support and those who are English learning.
RIDE also claimed that the proposal doesn’t include sufficient instructional examples to evaluate student progress.
Another concern cited by the agency is internet access. District leaders acknowledged in their proposal that 5% of faculty and 2% of family respondents don’t have access, but suggested they could download information before leaving school. However, RIDE pointed out that this would require knowledge that school will be canceled the next day.
Education Commissioner Ken Wagner wrote in conclusion that he looks forward to the district’s supplemental submission.
North Smithfield Superintendent Michael St. Jean said he remains hopeful that they’ll be able to resubmit their proposal shortly with the additional information RIDE is seeking.
“We have already accounted for many of the items listed in the response,” St. Jean said in a statement. “Our intent is to further clarify our proposal and provide a greater level of detail as requested.”
When the district first submitted its proposal, administrators were hoping that it would be approved in time to implement this winter.
“It still remains our hope to be able to pilot this possible means of continuing instruction during at least one snow day so we can assess its continued viability,” St. Jean said.
RIDE also declined to approve a virtual instructional days proposal from The Blackstone Academy Charter School.
This story has been updated from the original to include a statement from the superintendent’s office.