• August 12, 2021

    Dear Parents/Guardians,

    It’s another hot one today! I hope you are all staying safe and cool. As we approach the beginning of the school year, I am excited to welcome you and our students back, for what we plan on being full time, in-person, 5 days per week, learning for all students. It is incredible how far we have come on this COVID journey and I am proud of how resilient this experience has made us as individuals and as a District.

    I will admit that as the Delta variant continues to spread, I am concerned for the health and safety of all, therefore, I wanted to give you a heads up on a few key items related to protocols as we begin this school year. Please know that I, along with my team, are keeping a close eye on guidance from the CDC, the Vermont Agency of Education , and the Vermont Department of Health to help inform decision making and adjust course as needed.

    Is School Starting Early?

    We have received questions about why school seems to be starting early this year. It has to do with the number of instructional days required by the state and the five additional days we need to add. Last year, due to unknowns around COVID, the state pushed back our start date to after Labor Day. We usually begin before then. Each District varies slightly in that regard, although we do adopt a regional calendar annually that has 175 days. As a reminder, school begins for 6th, 9th, and new students August 23 and all other students August 24 except for Gertrude Chamberlin students who will begin classes August 30 due to the construction project that has been taking place over the summer. 

    Masking Required for All

    All students and staff can expect to begin the school year masked when inside. Masks are not required outside. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all students older than 2 years and all school staff should wear face masks at school (unless medical or developmental conditions prohibit use). They outline their rationale and reasoning for this which includes, not only decreasing the spread of COVID19, but other respiratory viruses as well. The CDC also recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status. I trust these recommendations and again, will let you know if universal masking changes.  

    The Importance of Staying Home When Sick

    Given that there will be a continued need for contact tracing this year, the RUVNA app will be coming back online for both students and staff. We will let you know the precise date soon. I feel this will continue to be a valuable tool for all of us to stop and check-in with our student(s) each day to see if they really are feeling well. Staying home when sick is one of the best ways (in addition to frequent hand washing and masking) to slow the spread of COVID and other respiratory illnesses like colds and flu.

    Other Mitigation Measures

    We will be continuing many of the measures we had in place at the end of the last school year. Ventilation will continue to be encouraged by opening windows and using the outdoor tents (they’re coming back!) for classes and activities, routine cleaning by our amazing custodial services staff, frequent handwashing, and utilization of air purification systems in our classrooms and offices. We have also added air purification units in other areas of our buildings to increase air exchange.

    Volunteers in Schools

    At this time, I would like to limit the number of people entering our schools, therefore, we will not be allowing volunteers on site (this includes mentors and parents/guardians) I will let you know if this changes.  

    Protocols for Activities

    While we are awaiting more guidance from the state and the VPA (athletics: p.s. registration for fall sports ends August 20) on how activities will look this year, what we do know is that singing will take place outside for now, art classes will be in arts classrooms, and field trips will need to be requested for a risk-assessment through me. Physical education will be held outside as often as possible with low impact activities encouraged indoors. 

    No Remote Learning Option this Year

    This year, we are not planning on offering a remote learning option for students, even if a class needs to quarantine. More specifics will come from individual principals on what those days should look like for students. 

    Transportation

    Please note that our busses will be at full capacity and transportation services still need to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for travel on school buses. This means that students and drivers are required to wear masks. Bus routes will be posted to the District website August 19.  If you have any questions or concerns regarding your student(s) transportation needs, please feel free to contact Kathy LaRock, Transportation Coordinator at klarock@sbschools.net,  652-7479 or 318-0435.  

    Nutritional Services Update

    Our nutrition services team has been hard at work all summer providing meals to families both on site and by delivery. Amazing! The last day of this program will be August 19. For the upcoming 2021-2022 school year, all children will receive free breakfast and lunch at school, regardless of household income eligibility. 

    However, It is still very important for families to submit the Application for Free and Reduced Price School Meals to track our community’s Free and Reduced Percentage which gives greater access to grant funds for schools and telecom reimbursements for the greater community.

    Submitting an application could also make your family eligible for other benefits such as EBB, Emergency Broadband Benefit,  and P-EBT, Pandemic EBT 

    You still have time to apply and become eligible to receive the Summer P-EBT benefit of $375 per eligible student, please complete and return the paper Free & Reduced-price meal application or apply through our online application system, MySchoolApps. Please make sure to fill out all the requested information, incomplete applications cannot be processed and could make you ineligible for the summer benefits. We will review the application to determine if you qualify. Please return the paper applications to Rhonda Ketner, 500 Dorset Street, South Burlington, VT or rketner@sbschools.net by August 16th , 

    We're Hiring! Do you love working with children? Would you like a career that has working hours that follow your child's school schedule, NO nights, No Weekends, No Holidays?  Several positions available including Full Time, with benefits, Part time and Substitutes $14.00- $20.00 per hour. No experience necessary, we are willing to train. Please contact Rhonda Ketner, Nutritional Services Director at:  rketner@sbschools.net for more information.

    Surveillance Testing 

    We will once again be participating in voluntary COVID19 surveillance testing for students (age 5 and above) and staff this year. More details and how and where this will be rolled out are forthcoming. In the meantime, the state continues to offer numerous options for getting a COVID19 test if you need or want one. 

    Vaccination

    Although Vermont continues to be a leader nationwide in our vaccination rate and indeed in Chittenden County, the percent positivity rate continues to climb. The state is continuing to offer vaccinations at a variety of sites throughout the state and we, like many of our fellow Districts, will be offering pop-up vaccine clinics for those ages 12 and above at the high school from 9:00 am-5:00 pm on the following dates: 

    • Thursday, August 26

    • Thursday, September 16

    • Thursday, October 7

    I realize this is a lot to take in and I encourage you all, if you have the time during these days before school begins (and especially afterward), to take care of your mental well being. Going for a nature walk, reading, meditation, and checking out some of the resources offered by the state as well as COVID SupportVT are all great options.

    As I said last week, I take my job as Superintendent very seriously especially where health and safety are concerned. I gladly abide by the “duty of care” enshrined in state law that requires districts to protect students “from being exposed to unreasonable risk.” COVID, for me, falls into that category. I know there will continue to be questions as we approach the start of school and I will be in touch frequently with updates. In addition, look for detailed information in the days to come from your student(s) school via email, school websites, and social media including an upcoming Instagram Q and A with Patrick Burke for high schoolers. 

    Please do not hesitate to reach out with questions or concerns and have a great weekend.

    Sincerely,

    David