• December 11, 2020

    Dear Parents/Guardians, Staff, and Community Members,

    I can’t believe Friday is here already! I hope you all have had a safe and enjoyable week. A lot is happening in our state and District as usual and I’m happy to report about numerous positive items including tonight’s virtual opening of SBHS Drama’s musical production of A Christmas Carol! Thanks for being part of our inspiring community and read more below.

    Voluntary Staff COVID Surveillance Testing Phase 2 Complete 

    This past Tuesday, District staff had the opportunity to participate in Phase 2 of the state’s voluntary COVID testing for school district staff. Staff were notified last week that, if interested in participating, they could sign up by noon Monday, December 7. During Phase 1, we had 270 participants and for Phase 2, 298 staff members took the PCR tests. Test results are still coming in, but given our staff’s dedication to COVID protocols and the low transmission rates within our schools, we are optimistic about favorable outcomes. You can read more about school staff surveillance testing here.

    Mental Health Resources

    At the Governor’s press conference last Friday, commissioner of the Department of Mental Health, Sarah Squirrell discussed the impact the pandemic has had on our collective mental health, from not being able to socialize with family and friends as we once did, to simply giving or receiving a hug. Food insecurity, job loss or reduction in hours, and the stress of juggling it all during this pandemic can be overwhelming. It’s okay to not feel okay, therefore I wanted to provide this link to potentially helpful resources as well as the information for COVID Support VT.   

    Safe and Healthy Schools Work

    This fall, the Director of Student Support Systems Joanne Godek and the Director of Learning Mike Martin, held meetings with the standing committees for Resilient Schools, Mindfulness, and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI). I have identified two charges for each group, one for students and one for staff, so that the committees will function as work groups starting in January with a clear objective guiding their work. Given the connections between each of these focus areas, the three committees will convene twice as a large group this spring to share ideas across committees. With participants from each school on these committees, we are striving for collective impact that defines who we are as a PreK-12 school community.

    Travel Guidance, Quarantine, and FAQ

    Thank you all for your continued adherence to the Governor’s guidelines around multi-household gatherings (which are currently prohibited). I am so proud of our school and wider community for their efforts. That being said, as we head toward December holidays, we need to continue our efforts to protect our community and one another. Last week, Secretary of Education Dan French released this FAQ Guidance for Schools Related to Limits on Multi-household Social Gatherings which should answer many of your questions. Additional resources on travel, gatherings, and quarantine are available from the CDC.  As a reminder, nonessential travel to and from Vermont requires a quarantine.

    Please note that while the District will not specifically ask the travel and multi-household questions to our students or staff, we do have an obligation to follow-up if a student or staff member reports having not complied with the Governor's order (and may ask that the student or staff member follow quarantine guidelines).

    Health Department Notification: Text Messaging Added

    The Vermont Department of Health has recently begun using text messaging as an additional way to get in touch with individuals who have been deemed close contacts of a COVID positive individual. If you receive a text message from 89361, this is a notification from the Health Department that you are a close contact of someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Soon you will receive a call from a Health Department Contact Tracer. Please answer the call. See more information about close contacts and contact tracing from the Vermont Department of Health here. In addition, VT Alert, the emergency management system typically used to notify Vermonters about various emergencies, now has COVID updates! You can check it out and sign up here.

    FY 22 Budget: Next Board Meeting December 16

    Thanks to the community members who joined us live, December 8, for our second community forum on the FY 22 budget. If you missed it, you can watch the forum and/or view the presentation in more detail on our District budget website. Our next community forum will be held January 5. Please note, these forums are taking the place of our Citizens Budget Advisory Committee (CBAC) this year. We invite you to offer your questions, comments, or to simply “drop in” to listen to the presentation. The budget will also be a topic on our regular school board meeting agendas. The minutes and agendas are posted on the school board page of our district website. There is an option to participate via Zoom or watch live via RETN’s Facebook page (or on the RETN website afterward). 

    RUVNA App for Reporting COVID Symptoms

    For the safety of students and staff, please continue to fill out the Ruvna App every day of in-person learning. This is very important, as it notifies you (or your student) whether or not to attend school. This important step will assist in helping to stop the spread of coronavirus.

    Assigned Bus Seating: Elementary Schools

    Our elementary schools have assigned students to specific seats on the bus in the event that staff may need to identify close contacts of a COVID positive individual. In some situations, these bus seats may change to promote safety due to unsafe behaviors that may arise. Please take time to talk with your student(s) about the importance of and reasons for remaining in their assigned seat each time they ride the bus. This will assist with accurately identifying close contacts.

    Nutritional Services: Winter Break Meals Available!

    Our dedicated nutritional services team will be offering meals over early winter break, December 21, 2020-January 1, 2021. Five (5) days' worth of meals will be delivered together each Monday, December 21 and December 28 via bus or pickup. There will be no individual daily meal choices only meal groups such as main meal, vegetarian or gluten free meals. Order forms must be submitted by Friday, December 18 at 1:00 pm. A separate order form needs to be placed for each student in a household. You can find the order forms on the nutritional services website.While you’re there, don’t forget to order meals for the first week back to school in January. That deadline will also be December 18 at 1:00 pm.

    School Happenings

    SBHS Drama’s Musical Production of A Christmas Carol Goes Live (Virtually) Tonight!

    Looking for something to do tonight and through the holiday break that’s both safe AND supports students? Look no further than the SBHS Fall Drama musical production of A Christmas Carol! This recorded production will be available for streaming via a link on the SBHS website beginning at 7:00 pm tonight and will be available until January 2nd, 2021. The production has been created by 25 talented cast and crew members under the direction of SBHS Drama Director Gail Kilkelly, Music Director Mark Violette, and Sound Engineer Ken Hypes.The production is free to the public, but donations to support this production can be sent to SBHS Drama through the high school address. Read more about the production in this blog post!

    FHTMS Students Represent at Ethnic and Social Equity Gathering

    On Sunday, December 6th three SOAR (students organizing against racism) students represented FHTMS at the state-wide gathering held by the Vermont Ethnic and Social Equity in Schools Coalition. During this past Wednesday's meeting, SOAR was joined by a SBHS Student Justice Union student leader to learn more about how to join their collective efforts. Inspiring!

    Rick Marcotte Central School Sponsoring Internet Safety Event 

    With students spending an increased amount of time online, parents/guardians may be looking for additional strategies to keep their children safe. If that describes you, check out the event, TECHNICOOL: Keeping Kids Safe on the Internet, which will take place virtually December 16 from 6:00-7:30pm. Topics discussed during this event will be keeping students safe in digital environments and addressing children exhibiting concerning digital behaviors. For more information, please contact Kirstie Grant at kgrant@pcavt.org or 802-498-0622. This event is sponsored by Rick Marcotte Central School and open to all South Burlington Elementary School parents/caregivers. Please click here to register.

    Gertrude Chamberlin School Students Learn Keyboarding Skills 

    Given current COVID restrictions related to the practice of wind instruments, in the case of elementary school music classes, recorders, music teacher Lisa Finlayson decided to find a meaningful way to replace the unit. Finlayson has always wanted to have a keyboarding lab since her first days at Chamberlin and decided it would be the perfect time to set those wheels in motion. Finalyson went through Donors Choose to obtain 12 keyboards, then used part of the music budget to purchase enough for a complete set. Third graders have recently begun using the keyboards and fourth and fifth graders will begin in January. New music skills learned in a safe way? That’s a win!  

    Orchard School Gets a Visit from Local Doctors! 

    Last Friday, Orchard School had two local doctors come by to observe state guidelines in action. Dr. Ben Lee (pediatrician) and Dr. William Raszka (pediatric immunology specialist) watched arrival time and temperature taking stations and then observed various classes and spoke with staff throughout the morning. These two doctors consult with districts on the state's guidelines for re-opening schools. Both communicated a high level of support and positive feedback for the Orchard team’s work. This visit came together thanks to Library Media and Instructional Technology Specialist Donna Sullivan-MacDonald who is a member of the VT NEA COVID-19 Task Force, representing VT librarians. The group asked the doctors if they'd be willing to visit one elementary and one middle/high school in the state. Sullivan-MacDonald volunteered Orchard and the coordination between the school, VT NEA, and doctors ensued! Great work Orchard!

    Thanks for all you continue to do to support our schools and one another. I hope you have a relaxing and safe weekend.

    Sincerely,

    David