August 7, 2020
Dear Parents/Guardians, Staff, and Community Members,
I can’t believe it is August already! It’s amazing how quickly these warmer months pass in Vermont, but there is still plenty of summer left. Our District teams continue to work hard as we move ever closer to school reopening, currently set for September 8. We are collaborating with our colleagues throughout the Champlain Valley as we work to determine the best path forward for each of our unique districts. I have updates on our reopening plans below in addition to information on how to vote in person in the FY21 budget revote coming up next week!
First, a big congratulations to SBHS science teacher and curriculum area supervisor Phil Surks. He recently received a Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. Surks learned about the award at a local conference and then received a nomination which was the invitation to apply. “The application was arduous and included several writing prompts as well as a video of a lesson,” Surks said. “I learned last summer that I was among the state finalists, but only learned recently that I was selected as “the guy” from Vermont.” A Zoom ceremony was held this week and all of the awardees will be invited to the White House when it is safe. See Phil Surks finalist profile here.
School Reopening: The Steps and Learning Options for Families
In order to provide clarity around the three steps to reopening our schools, as outlined in the Guidance from the Vermont Agency of Education, I have included a brief description of them below along with learning options for students in our District.
Step I : Remote Learning, with all teaching and learning taking place online
Step II: Hybrid Learning, with a combination of in-person and online learning.
Step III: Modified In-Person Learning
When Vermont schools open September 8th, most will be operating at Step 2: Hybrid Learning, with a combination of in-person and online learning. If conditions relating to the containment of coronavirus improve, schools will return to full-time in-person learning with stringent safety procedures in place - Step 3: Modified In-Person Learning. If conditions worsen, schools will move to Step 1: Remote Learning, with all teaching and learning taking place online. What follows are the enrollment options for South Burlington families as we begin the year at Step 2: Hybrid Learning.
After reviewing the options below, Parents/Guardians of elementary and middle school students are being asked to fill out surveys from their respective schools (Gertrude E. Chamberlin School Survey, Orchard School Survey,Rick Marcotte Central School Survey, and FHTMS Survey) indicating which option they plan to choose by Friday, August 14.
Option 1) Hybrid Learning in South Burlington Schools
South Burlington students attend school in person on either Monday and Tuesday (A-K last name) or Thursday and Friday (L-Z last name), and engage with online learning during the rest of the week from home/childcare. By dividing each class into two cohorts, all schools will be able to conduct in-person learning with physical distancing and other safety precautions fully in place. Wednesday mornings will be the time that teachers follow up with students with targeted support for online learning and to check in as needed. On Wednesday afternoons, teachers will be engaged in professional learning, collaboration, and planning for online instruction.
During Hybrid Learning, students who need special accommodations in order to access their education will continue through our IEP or 504 Plan processes. Through this process, a team will meet to identify the supports and accommodations needed for the student to be successful in this model.
Option 2) Online Learning with Vermont Virtual Learning Cooperative (VTVLC)
Students participate in this 5-day, online option instead of attending school. Students are assigned to a virtual class that may include students from South Burlington as well as neighboring districts. VTVLC prioritizes assigning students to an online teacher from their local district whenever possible. Students participating in this fully remote program are still enrolled as students in the South Burlington School District and still access support from our staff (e.g., guidance counselors and special educators) and co-curricular opportunities.
VTVLC is a well established online program where many Vermont high school students have taken high-quality online courses for over a decade. With the coronavirus crisis, VTVLC has partnered with the Vermont Agency of Education to provide a full-time online option for students of all ages with instruction from licensed Vermont teachers who already have or are working towards their Online Teaching endorsement. The program is a combination of asynchronous and synchronous learning offered through Canvas, an online learning platform. The K-5 curriculum is designed to be engaging for online learning and is based on an online elementary program from Florida.
Students participating in VTVLC will be enrolled for a minimum of one semester, with the option of returning to the Hybrid Model, if they choose to, at that time.
Students who need special accommodations in order to access their education will continue through our IEP or 504 Plan processes and work with South Burlington special educators from their school. Through this process, a team will meet to identify the supports and accommodations needed for the student to be successful in this model.
Option 3) Homeschooling
Families also have the option of homeschooling their child, however, this removes the child from enrollment in the South Burlington School District. The homeschooling option also requires parents and guardians to file an application to change their child’s enrollment status and follow related guidelines from the VT Agency of Education.
Parents/guardians and staff will be required to affirm their child is healthy and able to attend school by answering 4 questions everyday before entering school. We are working on the best way to do that. We will inform you as soon as we have it fully determined.
All students and staff will be required to have their temperature taken immediately upon entering a school building which will be performed by Health Screening Staff.
We are working with the State Child Development Division (CDD) to ensure we have adequate space for all that need it. I have been assured that information and guidance is forthcoming. We are working with several partners to identify additional childcare options for parents and guardians to consider during this period. The Champlain Valley Superintendents have reached out to Let’s Grow Kids, Building Bright Futures, and the VT Child Development Division. School’s Out will also play a role. Community spaces are being explored to provide childcare and funding is also being pursued. Financial assistance is available for families to assist with childcare access. Read more about how to apply here.
They are being collected now and I plan to get them out/posted as soon as possible.
Learning in the Outdoors: Tents at All Schools
We have tents ordered and they will be installed at each of our schools next week to facilitate outdoor classrooms whenever the weather allows.We hope to be able to utilize these well into the fall and again in the spring if we are still at Step 2.
In order to prepare for prolonged indoor learning now and even more so when the colder months arrive, our ventilation systems have been cleaned and serviced We are also awaiting approval of a grant thru Efficiency Vermont to have triple air filtration, UV, and Hepa system units for use at all of our schools.
Nutrition services will continue providing meals to students through August 28 and a plan is being developed for a mix of on-site meals, curbside pickup, and potentially delivery for the upcoming school year. More information to follow.
In last week’s letter I described the SBSD Hybrid (Step II) model under which we plan to open September 8 and how students will be placed in cohorts, with two days of in person learning and three days of remote learning. The cohort splits are based on the last name of a household's youngest student. The cohorts are (A-K) and (L-Z). During hybrid (Step II) the A-K cohort will be on campus Monday and Tuesday, all students are remote on Wednesdays, and the L-Z cohort is on campus Thursday and Friday.
The District will consider hardship requests for a change in cohorts. However, requests must be based on specific criteria and not all will be granted. Decisions regarding individual hardship requests will be made consistently across all schools in South Burlington. Initial decisions will be made at the school level and can be appealed to the Superintendent. The Superintendent's decision is final. Please submit your request as soon as possible.
Given the above described schedule where students will be divided into two groups coupled with the information collected from the family survey that went out July 22nd, bus routes are in development and we expect to publish them by the end of August.
Preschools will have 2 cohorts (A-K) M, T for the session they have enrolled (a.m. or p.m.) and (L-Z) on Th, F for the session they have enrolled. The teachers will provide remote learning for the two days the cohorts are not in session. We realize that parents were planning on attending M-Th and may be in need of childcare for some days. The District is working on logistics to provide childcare to families who need this.
We held our official public hearing on the revised, proposed FY21 budget Wednesday, August 5. If you missed it, you can watch it via RETN. If you have any lingering questions about the budget prior to voting, please join the school board at their final mini meeting Sunday, August 9 at 7 pm. You can review the latest, proposed budget information here.
School Budget Revote Next Week
The re-vote on the revised, proposed FY21 budget will take place August 11th in conjunction with the state primary. The last day to mail back your absentee ballot was August 3, per the Secretary of State, in order to ensure it arrived on time at the city clerk’s office. If you have an absentee ballot in hand, you may drop it off at City Hall weekdays from 9 am-noon and 1:00-4:00 pm (these are also the hours by which you may vote in person until August 10 at noon) or place it in the night drop box outside City Hall until 8:00 am August 11. In person voting will also occur August 11 from 7:00 am - 7:00 pm at all three of our polling locations: Orchard School (7-1), FHTMS (7-2, 7-3), and Chamberlin School (7-4).
Please note: Nothing can be dropped off at City Hall on election day. Any ballot that is received in the mail on election day will count. Anything received after the polls close at 7:00 pm will not count.
We recognize there are many questions around school reopening and will be using multiple avenues to communicate with families and staff as information becomes available. These include e-mail, our District website, and individual school principals’ communications.
Thank you as always for your support, flexibility, and resilience.