Swabber Spotlight: School Liaison Lori Stone
May 10 2021
Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Lori Stone and I am the Home Liaison at Reingold Elementary School. Reingold is an urban PreK-4 elementary school located in Fitchburg, MA. My life has come full circle, as I attended Reingold as a child, my 3 children attended, and I returned first as a paraprofessional, and then home liaison. Many former students elect to return to the school because of the strong culture that exists here as well as the outstanding teachers and focus on excellent instruction.
What are the challenges that the school has faced during the pandemic? How did you cope with those challenges?
Our school and district has faced a variety of challenges during the closure. Last March, the safety and security of students was our top priority and biggest challenge. In collaboration with our FPD, myself, and our administrators, we performed wellness checks on our students and were able to secure food, devices, gift cards and access to additional community resources.
How have the students reacted to testing?
Our students at RES have been tremendous! The very first day we started pool testing each class was given a description and a demonstration of what to do for the Sassy Swabbing Process. Swabbing has become part of our school routine on Mondays and Wednesdays and the kids look forward to the crazy lady with the COVID cart stopping by their classroom! It amazes me quickly they have caught on!
What are the challenges of communicating with students and families about COVID-19? How do you manage those challenges?
I always try to look at the silver lining of any situation, and the pandemic was no exception for me. When our ability to communicate and collaborate with our families changed out of necessity during the closure, we were forced to consider new ways to connect. We were often sending out emails, newsletters and voicemails to caretakers in order to keep them up to date on pertinent information. We also offered families the opportunity to engage in virtual meetings and forums to alleviate anxieties and provide updates. Our teachers offered a “parent outreach” block of time, similar to a daily “office hour,” to answer more child-specific sensitive questions.
How do you help students feel comfortable with testing?
For some kids, it can be awkward and give them some anxiety. I try to keep the attention on myself and the process to make kids feel calm.
First, I always go over the steps so the kids don’t feel unsure. We make it fun! I have a state of the art COVID Cart that my principal, Mr. Mercardo, purchased for me. I had a vision of how I wanted my COVID Cart to look and Kim Hammett, our OT, was kind enough to make decals on her Cricut machine and bring my vision to life. I sometimes play music when I come rolling down the hall with my cart to get the kids pumped up for swabbing (the teachers just love that!) I dance, I sing, I have watermelon, orange, and ocean scent hand sanitizer, which the kids love. I always remind them that the swab goes “booger side down!”
What can the community do to support schools and school staff during the pandemic?
One of our school goals is to enhance two way communication with stakeholders, so we are always looking for ways to connect with parents, local businesses, religious institutions, service providers, etc. We’ve forged relationships with local daycare providers and afterschool programs, as well as the fire and police department here in the city of Fitchburg. Honestly, the most important thing to understand right now, is that we are all in this together. We all need to follow the guidelines for a bit longer and ultimately we will come out stronger together.