After smooth launch, N.S. leaders look to address social/emotional aspect of distance learning

A middle school student gets instruction while eating breakfast.

NORTH SMITHFIELD – Supt. Michael St. Jean said he’s confident that teachers and students in North Smithfield will adapt to a distance learning plan implemented in the district this week.

St. Jean said he’s more concerned about supporting students’ social/emotional well being while concerns about the spread of COVID 19 keep the separate from their peers and educators.

“During distance learning, we are going to try and maintain our community connections,” he said. “Some students may feel socially or emotionally isolated while they are maintaining physical distance.”

The superintendent has asked school counselors, social workers, and psychologists to monitor students, to be in contact with teachers and available to any student who needs assistance. All mental health/support staff are available via our email from 8:00 AM – 2:00 PM., Monday through Friday

St. Jean also published a list of resources for parents, which can be found here.

“Fortunately we have good people who are available to talk, to email, or to conference with our students,” he noted.

The district expanded its “grab and go” school lunch this week, also offering it to students who are not necessarily eligible for free or reduced lunch. Any North Smithfield student can now after filling out the form here,

The form includes pickup times and alternate locations, and all information provided is kept confidential.

Learning resources, information, and technical support can be found on the district’s distance learning page at

St. Jean told NRI NOW that the district’s first week with the new learning plan is going “extremely well,” and he plans to have a summary document to send to members of the school committee on Friday.

School Committee Chairman James Lombardi also issued a statement.

“I want to thank the superintendent, principals, teachers, administrators, and support staff, who all worked in unison to figure out the distant learning with no warning or playbook,” Lombardi said. “I know many of our staff worked during the vacation and weekends. It was not perfect, but it worked very well with no ‘dry runs. I fully understand this is a very stressful time for all of us with many unknowns.”

“Parents and students, I commend you as well for going with the flow while we worked through the issues,” Lombardi said.

The district is using Google Reports to track success in using the new system and as of 1:50 p.m. on the first day of instruction, Monday, March 23, 2,456 “meet sessions” had been recorded and 328 virtual classrooms were considered active. The total number of documents opened, edited or shared was 100,714 – Google’s reporting limit.

“After the initial adjustment and practice period, I fully anticipate some creative and amazingly cool teaching and learning to happen,” St. Jean said. “This is a unique situation for everyone and collectively we will make it work.”

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