March 26, 2021
Dear Parents/Guardians and Staff,
I can’t believe we are approaching the end of March and April will begin next week! The weather has provided ample opportunities for our students and staff to enjoy some much needed time outside for learning and health. While this has been taking place all year (think SBHS ice rink which was a huge success), the sunshine has been particularly restorative. I wanted to remind you all that parent/teacher conferences will be taking place next week on Thursday, April 1 and Friday, April 2. These will be half days for all students. Please look to your individual schools for specific dismissal times and bus schedule adjustments. I’m excited to share numerous positive updates below!
Safe and Healthy Schools: Committee Updates
Safe and Healthy Schools is a main focus area of the South Burlington School District’s Continuous Improvement Plan (CIP). Earlier this year, I convened three Safe and Healthy Schools Committees (one focused on antiracist work, mindfulness, and a third on resilience) and charged them with implementing clear objectives for both staff and students. With each committee including staff from all five schools, the work is designed for collective impact across our PreK-12 school community. Each committee will meet five times this spring, including two plenary sessions with all three committees together. Rhiannon Kim will be providing facilitation. The hope is to develop shared practices across our schools that define who we are as a school community. I will provide updates as this work continues.
Statewide Assessments Taking Place
Last spring the state of Vermont received a waiver to pause assessments due to the pandemic, however, this year, a waiver was not attained by the state, therefore, schools are required by the U.S. Department of Education to administer statewide summative assessments of English Language Arts (ELA), Math and Science. This includes both general and alternate assessments. Assessments of English Language Proficiency for English learners are also required this year.
The test window for ELA, Math, and Science began March 16, 2021 and assessments need to be complete by June 11, 2021. Smarter Balanced ELA and Mathematics will be administered in Grades 3-9, the Vermont Science Assessment in Grades 5, 8, and 11, and The Vermont Alternate Assessment for Grades 3-9, and 11. Individual schools have been communicating their testing dates and protocols to their students and families.
All assessments must be delivered to students in person, including students who are enrolled in VTVLC as a remote learning option this year. Test administration protocols will be implemented in a way that maintains safety for students and test administrators. Students who are experiencing a significant medical emergency may be eligible for a medical exemption.
Registration is open for incoming Kindergarten students. If you would like to register a student who will be 5 on or before September 1, 2021, please visit our district registration site.
Return to More In-Person Learning at the Middle and High Schools
As COVID-19 vaccinations continue to increase and the warmer weather approaches, we have been carefully examining how we could bring more students back into our schools for in-person learning while adhering to the current Strong and Healthy Start Guidance. At the Governor's press conference today, Secretary of Education Dan French indicated that this guidance will be updated in April to potentially incorporate changes in distancing requirements (reducing from 6ft to 3 ft for students) recommended by the CDC along with detailed guidelines specific to end of year celebrations.
I wanted to let you all know that currently, we plan on implementing a schedule change at the middle school beginning Wednesday, April 14 to bring students back into the building each Wednesday by cohort on an alternating basis. We believe that in-person instruction and the direct interaction with teachers and between students is important to the overall social-emotional wellbeing of our students. This was echoed by Vermont students in this recent Virtual Youth Forum with Governor Phil Scott. More details on this plan will be forthcoming from Principal Karsten Schlenter. The high school began bringing students in for required statewide assessments this past Wednesday, beginning with the freshmen class. Wednesdays will continue to be utilized in this way for all high school students up until the April break. After students return from break, the high school will follow a similar schedule to the middle school. At this time, due to current COVID case activity and distancing limitations, I do not feel comfortable moving our elementary grades from 4 to 5 days per week of in-person instruction. I will keep you all updated as circumstances evolve.
VTVLC Students Celebrate Spring
VTVLC Students will be enjoying a K-12 Virtual Academies Spirit Week next week, March 29 - April 2. Student Voices is a student-led group where students plan events, build student connections and create a space for students to get to know one another. This is a group led by students and open to student ideas and collaboration. There are two groups: one for all K-5 students and another for all 6 -12 students. Spirit Week includes themes for each day and a student wide talent show Wednesday March 31 via Zoom. The themes include a PJ and stuffed animal day and dress as a movie or book character. Students have been providing videos for the talent show throughout the month and the event will be held over Zoom Wednesday afternoon.
SBHS Alpine Ski Team Makes an Impact
This year, the SBHS Alpine Ski Team assumed a team theme of “Never Waste a Crisis” as they headed into the 2020-2021 season. Since the team could not hold their weekly dinners or participate in as many races as in a typical year, they decided to shift some of their energy toward making a greater impact both within their team and outside of it. Together, they watched TedTalks on resilience and perseverance and shared healthy recipes via Zoom. Then, Katherine Hankes (a senior captain) came up with the idea to hold a fundraiser that would support an organization other than the Alpine Ski Team. Assistant Coach and SBHS AthleticTrainer Kelsey Higgins thought of the broomball event and supporting Unlikely Riders.
On Sunday March 14th, over 60 students, faculty, and staff participated in a broomball tournament that ultimately raised over $500, 100% of which was donated to Unlikely Riders. Unlikely Riders is a local organization that expands access to winter sports for the BIPOC community in Vermont and promotes exercising and forming connections in the mountains. The plan is to hold this tournament annually. Well done!
FHTMS Plays the Stock Market Game!
Learning about economics has been getting exciting on the Why Not? and Discovery teams at FHTMS. Teacher Christine St. Clair reported that 7th graders are currently playing the Stock Market Game through SIFMA. Teams are given a virtual $100,000 to invest in any stocks traded on the NYSE or the NASDAQ. Whoever makes the most money in the 10 weeks of the game wins. St. Clair noted that it is a national game, but played on a local level where students play against other Vermont teams. The students all have their own team passwords where they can see their portfolios and their rankings. In addition to this game, so far this year students have learned about basic economic decision making (cost-benefit analysis in decisions) in unit 1, resources and trade in unit 2, global standard of living and economic indicators in unit 3, and will be learning about financial literacy in unit 4. The contest ends April 16. We can’t wait to hear the results!
Gertrude Chamberlin 5th Graders Graduate from DARE Program
Last Thursday, Chamberlin 5th graders graduated from the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program. For 6 weeks, they participated in classes conducted by School Resource Officer Brianne Williamson. Officer Bri noted that, “The program is more than just learning how to say "no" to drugs. Students learn about stress, peer pressure, bullying, and how to listen and communicate respectfully, even when you don't agree.” The culmination of the program involved writing an essay about their learning. Officer Bri chose one winner from each class who read their essay during the graduation. Congratulations to all! In addition Orchard School 5th graders had their DARE graduation in early March and Central students have just begun the program.
Rick Marcotte Central School Teacher Honored as Hero of the Gut
Central School Kindergarten teacher Deb Miller Albergini has been honored by the UVM men’s hockey team as their latest Hero of the Gut! Hero of the Gut is an on-going recognition series that thanks members of the community for their hard work and dedication. In prior years, individuals were honored live at the men’s hockey games, but due to COVID-19, individuals are now recognized via social media posts highlighting their achievements. You can read more about the initiative here and see the video from UVM men’s hockey Assistant Coach Jeff Hill honoring Deb here. Deb’s recognition was also shared in posts on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Congratulations Deb!
Orchard Students Reach Their 100 Apple Challenge Goal
According to Principal Mark Trifilio, students recently met their 100-apple challenge goal. This is part of their Core Project and each apple represents 100 acts of kindness, cooperation, and taking responsibility. Students celebrated this achievement by having a game day where they had the opportunity to bring in games from home and share with their classmates.Fun!
Thanks for reading, stay safe, and enjoy the weekend!