• August 21, 2021
     
    Dear Parents/Guardians and Staff,

    This week brought some sad news for our District with the passing of FHTMS Principal Karsten Schlenter. Karsten touched the lives of so many in our District and throughout the wider South Burlington community. I had the immense honor of working with him for 10 years and his dedication for his profession and commitment to students and families always did and will continue to inspire me. 

    This past Thursday and Friday we welcomed staff, both veteran and new, back to school with an inservice day and convocation. We also recognized staff who have dedicated 10, 20, 30, and 40 plus years to the District! I offered words I hope will act as a guide as we enter this new school year together: kindness, respect, and belonging. I think we all respond better to kindness, in tone and actions, practicing mutual respect regardless of differences is paramount, and of course, fostering a sense of belonging through social connection is critically important to our collective well being. I look forward to seeing you all next week!            
     
    Processing Grief: Honoring Karsten
     
    When we received the news about the passing of Karsten Schlenter, we began working immediately to provide support for students and staff. We invited FHTMS staff to gather under one of our outdoor tents for conversation and to speak with a counselor if desired. On Tuesday, we offered counseling to FHTMS students and there will be further opportunities for students and staff to connect with a counselor at the beginning of the school year. Parents have been notified that FHTMS and SBHS Guidance Counselors and Howard Center Clinicians are available at both schools to meet any student (or groups of students) needing additional supportIn addition, FHTMS School Service Clinician Donna Lemay shared these notes on grief that could be helpful during this challenging time and please remember to be compassionate to yourself and others. Over the coming days or weeks,
    • You may notice an increase in irritability
    • You may have trouble focusing/concentrating
    • You may have difficulty with quality sleep
    • Some people will never need to talk feelings out and may shy away from those of us who do    benefit from talking it out. Be ready to give space to each other when/if sadness surfaces during  the work day
    • Unexpected death grief is harder and a longer grieving process

    Lemay shared, “One of the key things I've found over the years that helps with grief is to share stories, laughs, memories of all kinds. When people walk around in fear of sharing stories because it might make someone else upset, then the grief process can get blocked up. Please, find your people to share and connect with. I know Karsten gave me a lot of chuckles over my few years here.” Thank you Donna!

    Drop-In Zoom Chat for Families with Me!

    I know this is an incredibly busy time for all, but I also know families will continue to have questions and concerns as we begin the school year. If you are able, please join me for my next Zoom drop in chat Monday, August 23 from 6:00-7:00 pm. I look forward to hearing from you!

    Masks

    All students and staff can expect to be masked inside until further notice. Masks are not required outside. The South Burlington School Board unanimously approved a Student and Staff Mask Mandate at their August 18 meeting. The District will require masks at all times for students and staff, subject to exemptions required by law or reasonably granted by the Administration.

    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 for classes and activities, 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. 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.

    Please be aware that our custodial staff will be following traditional cleaning procedures to start the school year. Science has proven that surface transmission of all variants of the COVID-19 virus is rare and heavy use of industrial disinfectants may actually pose greater potential health risks. Our traditional cleaning and disinfecting procedures will provide protection for students and staff and we will continue to provide disinfecting wipes for use during the day.

    For staff: Our best defense against aerosol spread of the virus is running our portable air purifiers. Please ensure that air purifiers in your spaces are always on (including the UV function) and that obstructions are removed from around the units.

    Current Cafeteria/Plans Around Lunch

    Currently, the plan at the elementary schools is to have lunch by grade level in the cafeteria, separated by class, assigned seats with space, and using dividers. The middle school will resume the practice used at the end of the school year. Students will have assigned seats, sitting 4 students per 6' round table. At SBHS, students will be able to eat in many locations like the auditorium, lobby and outside to reduce crowding in the cafeteria.

    Transportation

    Thanks to all families who answered our one question transportation survey in the PowerSchool Parent Portal. As a reminder, 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 masksBus routes have been posted to the District website. Please be aware that due to the increased ridership and a nationwide shortage of qualified bus drivers that is impacting South Burlington as well, some routes are longer and have more passengers this year. Some stop times have been reordered and won’t be what you have been used to in past years. Please be patient as we refine our routes over the first couple weeks of the school year to make them as efficient as possible. If you have specific concerns, please email Kathy LaRock,  klarock@sbschools.net for assistance.

    Vaccination Clinics: Upcoming Dates

    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
    Recovery Planning: We want to Hear from You! 
     
    Over the next three school years, the South Burlington School District will receive federal funds for educational recovery in order to build back from the pandemic. These are one-time funds for Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) provided for by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020. This fact sheet from the U.S. Department of Education describes the funds and the differences between each type.The ESSER allocation received by each district is determined in part by the number of families living in poverty within the district. We want your feedback on our recovery plan! Check it out and fill out the brief survey on our SBSD Recovery Planning and ESSER Funds website. Survey closes October 1. 
     
    Summer Library a Huge Success at FHTMS and Orchard!  

    The FHTMS summer library program ran for 7 weeks this summer. Students enjoyed checking out the classics, new releases, caught up on Vermont Golden Dome Award winners and even enjoyed the AC for weekly Math tutoring group sessions. Janette Hasenecz said, “It was also nice seeing some transitioning 9th graders (one last time) enjoy reading from their SBHS recommended reading lists. It was slower sometimes but everyone was happy to gather in a familiar place. Please don’t forget to return any books the first week of school if you haven’t already! “

    Orchard School Librarian Donna Sullivan-MacDonald reported that their Summer Library was extremely successful! “We actually hit a goal for the number of books checked out: a total of 1,094 over 8 weeks of only being open 3 hours each week. Many thanks to Orchard School's PTO for funding the summer library program for the past 20+ years. A big thanks also to Janette Hasenecz for ensuring that the summer fun ran smoothly. We can't wait to hear from students about all the great reading they did during summer vacation!”
     
    Sports Update 

    And we’re off! With sports that is. Football held their first practice early this week and  All other sport teams began on Thursday, August 19th. The only sports program that will have restrictions to start the season is volleyball. Volleyball is the only indoor sport this season, which means that all coaches and students must be masked for all practices and games.You can find schedules and more  information at the sbwolves website.

    Want to join the athletic Boosters? They need you! They meet the first Thursday of the month at 6 pm  via Zoom for about an hour. You can even volunteer or come to meetings only during your athlete’s season. During the fall, they could use help with the concessions stand, the Ski Swap, and homecoming. Please reach out to any of the officers with questions.
     
    Health Screening Tool Going Live August 24

    The health screening tool we used last school year, RUVNA, will launch for all staff and students/families on Tuesday, August 24. Parents/guardians of student(s) in grades PreK-8 will be responsible for conducting health screenings of their student(s) at home prior to boarding our buses and/or dropping their student(s) off at our schools. Due to the delayed start, Gertrude Chamberlin students/families will receive notifications beginning August 30.

    High school students will conduct their own health screenings. Using this tool is an expectation. As a reminder, you should receive a text, an email, or both, based on your contact information in PowerSchool, at 6:00 AM and 6:30 AM every weekday. If you have not answered the health screening questions by 6:30 AM, you will be prompted to answer the questions again. It is critical that you complete these questions prior to coming to school to help keep our schools safe!

    If staff have questions, please review this Ruvna google slide presentation on the employee portal. If families have questions, they should contact their school's administrative assistant. 

    I am so excited for the beginning of what is sure to be a wonderful school year! Have a great weekend!

    David