July 29, 2020
Hello BSD Community,
Last week we announced the decision to implement a hybrid alternating day model along with the other districts in the Champlain Valley Superintendents Association. Not all districts in CVSA will follow the exact same model, but all will have students in school two days a week and have a Wednesday “C” day for targeted support for students, professional learning and planning, and cleaning.
In Burlington, we have decided to utilize an ABCAB model in which students will attend school either on A days (Mondays and Thursdays) or B days (Tuesdays and Fridays), with the goal of being successful, building confidence, and returning to school with more frequency as soon as possible. Moving to this model will allow us to have fewer students in our schools so that we can better meet physical distancing guidelines for in-person learning.
Next week, we will ask all families to complete additional registration information via PowerSchool. We need to know if you intended to send your child for in-person school or if you are hoping your student can participate in 100% virtual learning. We will also ask if your family has a preference for “A” days or “B” days. It is important to note, however, that we may not be able to accommodate each family’s preferences. We will begin building schedules based on our needs and expectations at the high school level and will then work at the younger grades to balance parent preferences, the desire to have family members attending on the same day, and the need to ensure we offer inclusive classrooms.
Our Reopening Task Force continues to work hard to plan for reopening. It is my intent to present our school reopening guidance to the board at our August 4th meeting. In the meantime, please visit our website for our first iteration of an FAQ document and see below for both some reopening-related and general District highlights.
Thank you for your continued support and engagement as we get ready to welcome our students back in person!
Statement from Mayor Miro Weinberger: In case you missed it, Mayor Weinberger issued the following statement on Friday in support of our reopening efforts. I have been meeting with the Mayor and we are working together to plan for additional support for students and families during these unprecedented times.
“I welcome new Superintendent Tom Flanagan’s decision to start the upcoming school year with some in-person learning. Thanks to the collective work and sacrifice of Burlingtonians and Vermonters, we have sustained some of the nation’s lowest levels of virus transmission for months, and have achieved, for now, the public health conditions necessary to safely re-open schools. I have offered the City’s support in the form of building space, staff time, and the help of our COVID-19 Analytics Team to help the district successfully expand in-person learning, especially for elementary school children, over the course of the fall if virus conditions remain favorable. Our community has accomplished so much together since this pandemic began. Now, it must be a critical focus of our efforts to do what we can to keep rates low and our schools open to close the opportunity gap, ensure that students don’t disproportionately fall behind, and support working parents and families. I am hopeful that we can follow a path like Denmark, Norway, and other nations in finding a way to safely resume full school operations for young children in the months to come.”
Masks: We are purchasing cloth masks for all students; the AOE is supplying the masks for staff. After much research and testing samples, we are ordering from Masking for Good. They are an off-shoot of the City of Burlington mask-making project (VT Teddy Bear was another partner in that). And as a feel-good side note, the mask making is done by a locally owned company (Vermont Bosna Cutting) owned by Bosnian refugees who came here in 1994. Masking for Good can meet our specifications best in terms of quality and variety of colors and sizes, capacity to deliver by start of school, and other factors.
Additionally, Masking for Good is doing the research, design, and making of prototype see-through style masks if we want them. They are researching the vinyl see-through material options, shape and sizing for us. These would be a great addition to our teacher masks, allowing students to see the smiles of their teachers.
Finance and Operations: A major point of emphasis in the development of BSD’s reopening plan is ensuring that we preserve food access for as many of our students as possible. To that end, we are working to make meals available to students even on days when they are not scheduled to attend school, and to do so in a way that is safe for the staff providing the meals and the students receiving them.
EL Summer Program: During the 4 weeks of the EL Summer SUCCESS program at Burlington High School, multilingual learners worked on their English and math skills and built community through shared projects and experiences. English class experiences included examining facts and opinions about the Black Lives Matter movement and finding the latest news and precautions about the novel coronavirus. Supported by Multilingual Liaisons and the EL department, students were busy reading, writing, listening and speaking every day, all while wearing masks and practicing social distancing. Math skills varied from the pre-algebra level to Algebra II. Final projects included a set of student-made videos showing peers how to enter the school, experience a health screening and temperature check, and practice social distancing in class. The culminating event was a picnic at North Beach, where students shared their passions in a talent show and received recognition for their growth during the program.
BTC: BTC will start the year with more than 200 students coming to us from nine “sending” high schools. All new BTC students, families, and guardians have been invited to attend a Program Orientation Night on Wednesday, August 26th, at 5:30 PM, outside on the BHS Athletic field to learn about their programs, teachers, schedules, and daily life.
Food Services: With the closing of our Fork in the Road food truck programming this summer, our Food Education & Youth Outreach Manager Sarah Heusner has put her time and focus into farming our larger-scale district gardens. Crop selection was based on items that would be accessible to most households and all harvest is going directly to Feeding Chittenden. It’s still early in our harvest season but we have already delivered over 200 pounds of cabbage, summer squash, collards and kale. Sarah expects a hefty tomato crop and fingers-crossed that the hundreds of potato plants she is cultivating aren’t eaten by beetles.
School Safety Task Force: We are currently in the process of initiating a Task Force that will review the role of the School Resource Officer (SRO) and make recommendations to the Superintendent on the School Resource Officer program. The District is looking forward to working with the community to decide the best course of action for the SRO program. As part of the planning process, BSD has looked at various models of SRO’s and school safety programs as a way of being more thoughtful with this work. BSD plans to have a process in place over the next two weeks to move forward with the work of the Task Force.