‘Our children are watching’: Smithfield superintendent begs for compliance amid surge in COVID cases


SMITHFIELD, R.I. (WPRI) — Smithfield Superintendent Judy Paolucci is pleading with parents and students to adhere to COVID-19 guidelines as the district works to contain an outbreak of cases.

Paolucci said the district was notified by the R.I. Department of Public Health this week of 24 confirmed cases, 12 of which are Smithfield High School football players.

The district has already seen 36 cases since the start of the school year, including the 24 newly-reported ones.

“We do have a significant spread right now,” she said. “We want to see our numbers go down and the only way to do that is to work together.”

Although a rise in cases over the course of the first few weeks of school, Paolucci said there have already been several instances where the spike could’ve been prevented.

“We have had at least two cases of families sending their children to school while sick and/or while awaiting test results,” Paolucci said. “This has resulted in far more quarantines and far more spread than if the children were kept home.”

“Additionally, some students are not sitting in assigned seats on the bus and are not consistently wearing masks, especially while riding the bus,” she continued.

Paolucci thanked the majority of families who are supporting the district’s efforts to stop the spread of the virus. She said maintaining a positive attitude about current practices is essential to student’s adherence to the protocols and their overall mental health.

But Paolucci also warned parents of the rhetoric being spread of social media by a “vocal minority” about the detrimental effects of wearing face masks, adding that it does not set a good example for the student body.

“I had a parent send me information they found on Facebook just proving their case that we shouldn’t have masks, and I looked up who this person is and it’s a comedian,” Paolucci said.

“As adults, we have a responsibility toward our children and our community, regardless if we are in agreement with rules put in place. Our children are watching,” she continued.

Parents have previously expressed their concerns over the district’s lunch protocols, claiming students’ mental health is suffering because they’re forced to eat alone and in silence.

Paolucci said she has worked with schools on new, more consistent, rules for lunch periods in order to ensure students can interact with one another while also keeping one another safe.

Some of those rules, according to Paolucci, include having students sit eight to a table and having them wear face masks while talking to one another.

Seating charts and physical distancing are also encouraged, and in the high school, Paolucci said students can scan a QR code on their table to assist with contact tracing.

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