Catholic school makes necessary changes to protect students, faculty from COVID-19


SMITHFIELD, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Normally, returning to school means buying new notebooks and backpacks. But the coronavirus pandemic has made preparations for the upcoming school year much more difficult.

Cythina Senenko, principal of Saint Philip School in Smithfield, tells Eyewitness News she’s worked all throughout the summer to ensure they’re ready for school to start on Aug. 31.

“We did a great job with distance learning, but nothing can replace in-person learning,” Senenko said.

She said the school created a 15-member task force made up of parents, pastors and school board members to make plans for the upcoming school year.

One of the committees on the task force focused specifically on social distancing.

“They went into all the classrooms and figured out how many students can be spaced out,” Senenko said.

In addition to desk-spacing Senenko said every other locker will be assigned and there will be a one-way traffic system in school hallways.

“Every teacher has a walkie-talkie, so before a class leaves their classroom, they will announce that on the walkie-talkie to make sure we don’t have two classes in the hallway at the same time,” Senenko said.

“It’s difficult, no doubt about it, it’s probably been the most stressful summer of my career and I have been doing this for quite some time,” she added.

Senenko said when it comes to lunch, younger students will stay in their classroom to eat while middle school kids will eat in groups of four.

Senenko said not all students are returning, however. A few students are staying home and will take part in remote learning.

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