• October 2, 2020

    Dear Parents/Guardians, Staff, and Community Members,

    It finally looks and feels like fall has arrived in Vermont. Whether you have been heading to the orchards for apple picking, relishing the first taste of those delicious cider donuts, or have simply been enjoying watching the trees brighten our landscape, these are the moments that make Vermont so special this time of year. Our Farm to School programming has even jumped on theme with their focus on apples! 

    I have heard from many of you over the past couple of weeks about the frustration you have been experiencing during hybrid learning. While not our intent when we decided to open in Step II, I am hearing loud and clear the stress this model has caused you and your families; from juggling remote lessons to finding adequate childcare. With this in mind, I wanted to provide an update on our thoughtful plan for reopening our elementary schools for additional days of in-person instruction. 

    Reopening Update

    Currently, the Strong and Healthy Start Guidelines from the Vermont Agency of Education (AOE) have moved from Step II to Step III effective September 26. Therefore, in consultation with our administration, we have created a phased reopening plan to bring back our Grades PreK-2 students October 13 followed by our Grades 3-5 students October 26 for 4 days per week of in-person instruction. Since schools will be closed Monday, October 12, in observance of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, during this first week, Grades PreK-2 will attend school 4 days (Tuesday-Friday), while grades 3-5 will attend with their current cohorts on either Tuesday and Wednesday or Thursday and Friday. The following week, grades 3-5 will return to their regular cohort schedule (Monday/Tuesday and Thursday/Friday). Then, beginning Monday, October 26, all elementary grades will return to our schools 4 days per week. Wednesdays will remain remote (except for Grades PreK-2 the week of October 13) for now to allow for deep cleaning. 

    More detailed information on the elementary reopening plans will be coming directly from the school principals in the coming days. Please keep in mind that these dates and plans are subject to change based on evolving data from the Vermont Department of Health, the CDC, and guidance from the Vermont Agency of Education.

    In terms of bringing grades 6-8 and 9-12 back for more in-person instruction, we do not yet have plans to do this. When discussions occur, we will consider the same data as noted above.  

    Curriculum Update

    As we have implemented the hybrid model of learning (Step II), I have heard concerns from parents/guardians around assessments; how, if, and when they will be conducted. We realize that for our youngest learners, online learning is the most challenging, social belonging the most critical, and transmission risk the lowest. Therefore, in terms of assessments, we have been initially concentrating our efforts on rebuilding a sense of community and ensuring that all families are connected to school and getting the resources they need for their children to be able to access a free and appropriate public education. As we transition to more in-person learning in the coming weeks, we will continue our important work with social emotional learning while also ramping up traditional academic subjects in the lower grades, starting with literacy and math assessments to identify our students’ strengths and needs. 

    In addition to receiving traditional grades on their report cards, all of our students in Grades 6-12 will receive proficiency scores in subject areas and on the South Burlington Student Learning Expectations (SLEs). The SLEs are transferable skills that apply across discipline areas and in both academic and professional settings. We are proud of the work that our teachers have done to identify clear, shared learning outcomes at each grade level and are pleased to be fostering the 21st Century skills that will serve our students well in the coming years.

    Outdoor Learning

    We have been enjoying using our tents for classroom instruction, PE when it rains, Farm to School activities, outdoor lunch and snack times, and reading aloud, however our tent season will be coming to a close as the temperatures dip. The current plan is to remove the tents November 2. 

    School Happenings

    It’s open house time! Virtually of course. The SBHS Virtual Open House will take place October 6 beginning at 6:30 pm with opening remarks from Principal Patrick Burke. All of the details are available at the SBHS reopening site linked above. 

    This fall, FHTMS will be putting on a production of the play Jane Eyre, based on the novel by Charlotte Brontë. Auditions (held outdoors under the tents!) wrapped this week and the current plan (subject to change based on COVID-19 factors) is to present Jane Eyre to a live audience. According to play director David Bailey, he has added 2 additional performances (for a total of 4) to allow for adequate spacing and appropriate numbers in the auditorium. The performance dates are currently set for Friday, January 8 - Sunday, January 10, 2021. We can’t wait to see how this amazing production comes together!

    Last week, Gertrude Chamberlin School held their annual carnation ceremony to officially welcome kindergarteners to school. This tradition was modified this year to be held outdoors where adequate distancing could be maintained. Fifth grade students held signs welcoming their youngest classmates and each was given a carnation. A video compilation of photos from this event is in progress.Welcome to our youngest learners! 

    Has hybrid learning affected library book circulation? Not for the 400 plus students at Orchard School who love to read! According to Library Media and Instructional Tech Specialist Donna Sullivan-Macdonald, “First week results are in: 521 books were checked out in four days last week, including 171 Fiction titles and 132 Graphic Novels!” Way to go! 

    Rick Marcotte Central School artists have been busy in Kelsey Lewis’s art class. All students, K-5 engaged in a self portrait project involving masks. The K-2 students made simplified portraits with pre-folded paper and a face/mask template while grades 3-5 added descriptive language and more detail to theirs (see some of the portraits on the RMCS Art Facebook page). Lewis said, “I wanted the students to embrace the new normal of mask-wearing with a positive spin. It was fun for them to decorate the mask with designs of their choice. I also wanted the lesson to be a Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) experience so the older students were encouraged to include positive words to describe their personality (Kind, Smart, Brave, Athletic, Helpful) on the inner fold of their portrait...the part that shows their smile.”

    Distance Learning Resource

    Have you heard? The Vermont Public Broadcasting System (PBS), DISH Network, and the Agency of Education (AOE) have expanded their partnership to support continuity of learning for Vermont students and school communities this fall.This partnership provides access to free educational programming, curricular connections, and distance learning tutorials through Vermont PBS Distance Learning. You can check out the schedule for October with programming for grades K-12 on topics ranging from science to language arts. It’s a great resource! 

    Transportation

    Elementary routes will be modified to accommodate increased ridership. Adjusted routes and times will be posted on the District website by Thursday, October 8th

    Nutrition Services

    The Step III guidance allows for more flexibility to use cateterias as intended with distancing and frequent sanitation in place. However, exact procedures will be determined and communicated by individual schools. The current meal pickup location at the concession stand in the Farrell Family Pavillion on Munson Field/Iverson Track from 9:00-10:30 am continues Monday through Friday. Delivery by bus for middle and high school students and remote learners will also remain the same. These meals need to be ordered weekly, in advance, via an  online meal ordering system. As always, you can find the latest menus and information on the Nutritional Services section of the District website

    Athletics

    Part of the transition to Step III meant that interscholastic sports could resume competition (with health and safety measures in place) on September 26. Check out the updated co-curricular digest for 2020-2021 which includes what is expected of spectators and ticket policies for games. You can find the latest game schedules and results via  Director of Student Activities Michael Jabour’s Twitter @sbwolfpack and the SB Wolves website. At  FHTMS, the fall sports schedule will get underway Saturday, October 3rd!  

    Thank you all for your patience and understanding as we continue to transition to the next step. I am grateful to you for your support and continued adherence to COVID-19 precautions. It is making a difference in getting our students back to more in-person learning.

    Sincerely,

    David