Oct 23, 2020
Hello Burlington Families, Staff, and Students,
This week we completed a successful return back to four days of instruction for students grades K-2. Students returned without any major issues and as I visited schools it was clear to see the joy students were experiencing as they reconnected with their complete classroom cohorts. Thank you to our teachers, staff, and administrators who have worked so hard to ensure we can safely and confidently return to in-person learning. I am impressed by the commitment and care of our teachers and staff every day!
As we continue our preparations for Grades 3-5 to return to four days beginning this coming Monday, we have updated the BSD Reopening Guidance to reflect current practices. We also expect updated guidance from the Agency of Education any day now. We are not totally sure what will be included in this guidance, as we have received conflicting information about these updates the past two weeks. For months we have heard that the guidance will loosen distancing recommendations but just in the last two weeks, as schools are returning to four days of learning across the region and state, we are hearing that those recommendations may actually become more strict. This has been extremely challenging for the Superintendents that I work with throughout the region. Please stay tuned in case we need to communicate more about any changes or updates next week. Please also know that the AOE “Steps” inform our decision making but they don’t force our decisions, and we always need to be prepared to pivot from more in-person, to less in-person, or vice versa as the impact of COVID-19 in Vermont evolves.
This past Tuesday, October 20th, we held an important board meeting regarding the future of in-person learning for high school students and the BHS/BTC campus. Several people participated in public comment and the board engaged in a robust conversation regarding the options I see before us:
Return to BHS now while remediation occurs and the ReEnvisioning Project continues as planned.
Move to an alternate location for 2-3 years while remediation and the ReEnvisioning occur at the BHS site and move back into BHS after the construction is complete.
Move to an alternate location for 2-3 years while building a new high school and tech center at our current site or in a new location.
As we move forward, the school board and I are hoping to hear from as many members of our community as possible regarding the future of BHS. All parents, students, staff, and community members: Please complete our BHS/BTC survey and have your voice heard. The survey asks about the options above, and for current BHS students, parents, and staff, also asks for input on short-term in-person learning activities. The deadline to participate is Thursday, October 29.
We are also working to create expanded in-person learning opportunities for BHS students, set to begin by November 18. I have met with teacher leaders and the BHS Administration to discuss the possibilities for new ways to gather in-person at least once a week, before finding a solution to getting all students back in-person in our hybrid model next semester.
Thank you for your continued engagement. I look forward to hearing from you.
Travel – The season of sports playoffs and holidays is upon us. I want to remind everyone that the State of Vermont has very specific rules regarding out of state travel and the need to quarantine upon return home. Anyone who has engaged in travel outside of Vermont should refer to the Agency of Commerce and Community Development and the Vermont Department of Health website and guidelines regarding quarantining after visiting yellow and red counties. Travel outside of the state to a yellow or a red zone requires quarantine for seven days with a negative test result thereafter or a total of 14 days without a test BEFORE returning to school. This is true for all travel, even if the visit is only for a few hours. Please be proactive, and only travel for essential purposes to reduce the number of days your student is out of school.
Health Screenings – Thank you to the many people who have completed and returned the Family Contracts for Health Screenings have been returned. At this time, we are looking to begin this new practice beginning November 2nd. We will keep you updated if that changes, but in the meantime, families should still be completing the daily health screening via PowerSchool.
Thermometers – If your family needs a thermometer and your family has an elementary school-aged student, you can sign up for a free thermometer through the Kinsa Health School Program. To sign up, simply text “FLUENCY” to 900-900 where a link to join the program will be texted back to you. If you do not have a phone that texts, please call your school nurse who can help you sign up for the program.
BTC Students in Person – We are thrilled to be BACK in-person for most Burlington Technical Center classes. WCAX stopped by to catch our BTC Culinary Arts program in action at their new digs. Check it out!
Board/District Meetings Pilot Partnership with RETN – Beginning this week, RETN will be live streaming Board and BCOC directly to the BSD Facebook page (previously they had been streamed to RETN’s page). This is a pilot partnership between the District and RETN, as we are the only District they will do this for as they seek to understand and expand the service to other school districts and municipalities in 2021. This move will make it much easier for constituents to view our board meetings and is a great step towards transparency and accountability.
Early Ed Updates; Restorative Practices and Masks – Stacie Curtis, Director of Early Education, recently participated in an interview with Building Bright Futures as a way to highlight our RP work with our youngest learners. “We’ve seen a reduction in challenging behaviors. We’ve also seen a difference in our relationships with each other as staff. It has helped us celebrate the differences the families all bring instead of making assumptions when we don’t know things,” shared Curtis.
Children in our BSD programs are wearing their masks at a 95% rate! We are so proud of how quickly they adjusted to this. As a reminder, this is one way we can keep each other healthy. We are still working on keeping 3-6 feet space when playing. This is hard when you are also learning to share toys and how to play with friends! Please make sure to do your temperature checks at home before school and keep your preschooler home if they have any cold or covid like symptoms.
FY22 Budget – We will soon be turning our attention more fully to the development of the FY22 budget. BSD will publish a budget development timeline next week that will include specific opportunities for public input, as well as the deadline by which the process must be completed in order to meet the City of Burlington’s deadline for ballot items.
Special Education Parent Connection – Last week we held our first “Special Education Parent Connection Meeting.” We had seven participants and great engagement. We hope more will join us as these regular meetings continue. The meeting was recorded and can be accessed on our website.