February 5, 2021
Dear Parents/Guardians and Staff,
Welcome to February! We ushered in this new month in typical Vermont fashion with our first snowstorm of the season. As you know, we had a heads up on the impending weather over the weekend, therefore, we had time to plan for a remote learning day for our students, Tuesday February 2. While in-person learning is always preferred, we were glad to be able to have a little time to prepare to make the shift to remote learning, rather than calling a snow day. My rationale behind this decision involved preserving the number of school days required in a calendar year (typically 175, but this year it is 171). I am concerned that if we drop too many days (via snow days), we’ll be in school until late June! You can review the snow day protocol we put in place in my December 19 letter. This week, aside from the snowstorm, the other big event that took place was the raising of the Black Lives Matter flag at FHTMS! Read more about it and my other updates below!
Black Lives Matter Flag Raised at FHTMS
I am incredibly proud of the courageous students and staff who collaborated to raise the Black Lives Matter flag at Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School Wednesday morning, February 3. The event occurred on a remote learning day for students and staff, but the raising itself as well as a compilation of recorded speeches was livestreamed and can be viewed here. Thanks to the IT Department for assisting with the technical aspects of this event! We recognize this action is but one step in our continued work in the areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion in our district.
Plans for raising the Black Lives Matter flag at the elementary schools are underway and each school has been working on their own learning activities to help educate students prior to the event. The flag raising will occur on a different day at each school and the first will occur in mid-February. Look for communications from your school principal in the days and weeks leading up to these important events for further information.
COVID-19 Update and Reminder About Gatherings
We are proud to report that transmission within our schools remains low, but as cases arise, we work quickly to respond by notifying families and staff of any potential quarantines necessary as well any needed adjustments to in-person learning. We base our decisions on the recommendations of the Vermont Department of Health contact tracers. As a reminder, this is what it means to be a close contact and how contact tracing occurs.
We remain hopeful about the vaccination program that has rolled out in Vermont and is currently available to Vermonters age 75 and older. Appointments to get a COVID-19 vaccine can be made by visiting the Vermont Department of Health website. If someone you know in this age group does not have access to online registration, they can make an appointment by calling 855-722-7878. At Governor Scott’s press conference today, Secretary Smith noted that given the small increase in the state’s vaccine allocation, they should be able to move on to the next age bracket, 70 years and older, within the next few weeks.
In addition, with the superbowl coming up this weekend, I know many, traditionally hold gatherings. I want to reiterate what Dr. Levine said at today’s press conference; please refrain from gathering with those outside of your household and watch the game virtually as an alternative. Adhering to this guidance, while difficult, helps to keep all of us safe and our schools open.
Nutritional Services: P-EBT and Vacation Meal Ordering
As I mentioned last week, there is a new round of P-EBT (pandemic electronic benefits transfer) in the works.Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) is part of the U.S. government response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Through P-EBT, eligible school children receive temporary emergency nutrition benefits loaded on EBT cards that are used to purchase food. Director of Nutritional Services Rhonda Ketner will be sending letters to both families who qualify and those who do not in the near future. In the meantime, you can read more detailed information on this benefit here.
Thinking ahead to winter break? Thanks to our amazing team, meals will be available February 22nd- March 2nd. Seven (7) days' worth of meals will be delivered together Monday, February 22nd via bus or pickup. Meals must be ordered by 1:00 PM Friday, February 19th. You can find the meal order form here.
A change to the number of equalized pupils from -17 to -9 (which means they have gone up) and an increase in the yield means that the tax rate we were required to warn in the budget book could change from a decrease of 4.15 percent to a decrease of 9.68 percent if all factors remain the same. More information on this change will be forthcoming. Keep your eyes open for detailed ads in The Other Paper, information on the budget section of the District website, and Front Porch Forum.
Please note that this year, due to COVID restrictions, there will not be an in-person pre-town meeting day budget presentation, but rather a virtual meeting held via Zoom on March 1 at 7:00 pm. You can find the link to the virtual public hearing as well as the City’s annual meeting warning here. If you have questions about the budget or articles, please feel free to contact school board members or myself.
Ballots and Voting
This year, ballots will be mailed to all registered voters. According to City Clerk Donna Kinville, they should be in the mail February 10 and hopefully in mailboxes around February 12. There will be return postage affixed to the envelopes. The ballots can be brought to the polls, left in the City Hall night drop box before midnight March 1, or received in the mail no later than 4:00 pm on March 2. Residents can also vote in person at all regular polling locations from 7:00 am-7:00 pm Town Meeting Day March 2.
Candidate Forums Coming up on Channel 17
Five candidates will be on the ballot in March for two open board seats. You can get to know the three individuals running for the 2-year term Monday, Feb 15th at 5:30 pm via Channel 17's YouTube. The candidate forum for the 3-year term has been tentatively scheduled for February 15 at 6:30 pm.
SBHS Student Justice Union Organizes Black History Month Events
Social studies teacher and Student Justice Union co-sponsor Emily Gilmore reported that this week, to kick off Black History Month, students have viewed this SJU video (HERE) to learn more about the history of Black History Month and important terms to know and use. SJU also hosted a letter-writing campaign to address a proposed bill at the Vermont legislature that would limit flags flown at public schools to the U.S. flag and Vermont flag. In addition, across the building are posters about famous Black people in American history including RuPaul, Kamala Harris, and Shirley Chisholm. SJU has also organized advisory activities including a word search and crossword puzzle to teach others about important people and events in Black history. Students can turn in their completed puzzles and at the end of each week there will be 5 winners who will win a book written by a Black author. That was just week one! Can’t wait to see what happens week two!
FHTMS Spirit Squad helps kick off the Second Half
Kindness boomerangs, spirit week, flannel Fridays, and now an amazing display at the entrance of FHTMS welcoming students to the second half of the school year! All of this is thanks to the FHTMS “Spirit Squad!” The "Spirit Squad" is made up of 10 teachers, support staff, and school counselors committed to helping foster a positive climate in this difficult school year. Keep your eyes open for more to come from this inspiring group of individuals.
Gertrude Chamberlin School Students Launch Website to Help Save Animals
Two Chamberlin School 3rd graders have combined their knack for technology with their desire to help save animals by launching their own website: Save All Animals. If you read their About Us section, you’ll find the story of how this all began in art class! This week, they officially rolled out their site in their 3rd grade classes and even had t-shirts made for the occasion. Wow!
Central School First Graders Complete Peace and Diversity Unit
The first graders at RMCS recently completed their Peace and Diversity Unit. Students read some introductory books about peace and talked about our differences, our similarities, and ways that we can share peace with the people around us. They also learned about Martin Luther King Jr., watched part of his “I Have a Dream” speech, and then wrote dreams for themselves, their family, and their world. Students then thought about the content of their own character and self-selected words that they felt described themselves. Well done!
Orchard School Musicians have Rhythm
Fourth and fifth grade musicians in Amy Frostman’s music classes at Orchard recently completed a rhythm composition unit. Students worked in small groups to create four-part rhythm pieces using body percussion and choreography, then performed their completed compositions for their classmates! Wish I could have seen, or rather heard that!
The days are getting longer and the sunlight has been so welcome as we continue our march toward spring. I hope you get out to enjoy it this weekend!