March 26, 2021
Dear BSD Families and Staff,
It’s hard to believe, but last Thursday marked one year since all schools in Vermont moved to remote learning in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In recognition of this, I joined classrooms virtually to reflect and share a moment of silence, as well as a message of gratitude and thanks. BTC/BHS students Patient Mwibeleca and Elena Spencer joined me to share their art and expression over the year, and they were a big hit among students and staff. In addition to my message, each school planned a day of activities (like the ones from Champlain below and SA here) putting their own spin on honoring the year-to-date when we all did our first Google Meets.
Last week we also officially released our new mini-documentary produced in partnership with Burlington’s Media Factory. “We Choose Love and Hope: Raising the Black Lives Matter Flag in Burlington School District” looks at all of the student-led BLM flag-raising ceremonies that happened across the district this year and last year. Thank you to our teachers and staff for working to support these meaningful, student-led celebrations.
As you may know, last week the CDC reduced their physical distancing recommendations from six feet to three feet. Superintendents across Vermont are anticipating that the AOE will revise or draft new guidance to include the CDC guidance; while I could be wrong, I am anticipating that announcement any day now and I believe that when the announcement comes, the AEO will also encourage Districts to increase in-person learning.
In anticipation of this, I have asked our principals and school leadership teams to begin planning and preparing for a return to more in-person learning beginning on or around April 26th. At first glance, this could mean at least 4.5 days a week in elementary school, and at least 4 days a week in middle school. At DtBHS, we may need more time in order to make this work as students and staff are still adjusting to the new space and special considerations will have to be made for scheduling.
Please know that my goal in considering increased in-person learning is to be open to feedback and ideas and to make student-centered decisions; I am committed to working with students, families, and staff to make this work.
P.S. Please see below for some important updates and don’t forget to get outside and enjoy the spring weather this weekend!
Congratulations to BTC Director Jason Gingold – The Vermont Career Center Director of the year is BTC’s own Director Gingold! The peer-to-peer award is given annually by the VPA, with nominees and winners chosen by the CTE directors throughout the state. Congrats Director G!!
Strategic Plan – We are gearing up to begin developing a five-year strategic plan that we will co-construct as a community. This week we met with five well-regarded national organizations that specialize in this work and responded to our request for proposals (RFP). We are working to ensure student and family voice is central to the development and implementation of the plan, and we were fortunate to be joined by a student from Hunt Middle School in this week’s interviews. We are hoping to finalize a partnership in the coming weeks and look forward to sharing more information about how students, families, and staff can contribute to this important work.
2020/2021 Teachers Contracts – We are happy to report that the 2020-2021 BEA Teacher’s Agreement has been signed and approved by all parties. Thank you to everyone who helped get this agreement in place during such a difficult time. We value our teachers and have appreciated the ongoing collaboration among BSD and the BEA to ensure we work together to provide the best possible education for our students.
BHS/Colchester Girls Hockey – On Wednesday, Colchester Superintendent Amy Minor and I made the difficult decision to not play in the Girls DI Hockey State Championship Game due to an evolving COVID-19 situation. Unfortunately, this decision happened in the minutes leading up to the face-off, as we were getting information live from the VPA and the VTDOH. On Thursday, VPA named Essex Champions. I believe we made the right decision holding our players back on Wednesday as we were using the best information we had, and the advice of the DOH, to prioritize our community’s safety. I disagree strongly with the outcome though. Therefore, Superintendent Minor and I have written a letter to the VPA asking them to reschedule the game or to declare co-champions. Regardless of the outcome, our girls had an amazing season and have shown the community their strength of character in their approach to this very challenging situation.
Incoming 9th Graders – We know that 8th-grade families are wanting to come visit DtBHS to see what the space looks like and to get an idea about what school will be in our new space. While we cannot yet accommodate in-person tours during the school day, Victor Prussack, our Coordinator of Engagement, is working with DtBHS leadership to offer tours in groups of 10-12 people on Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings. Due to capacity limits, visits will be by sign-up only. More information will be coming out directly to 8th-grade families next week.
Combating Ableism – Next Office of Equity Webinar – What is ableism, and how does it show up in schools? Join us on April 8, 6:00 – 7:00 pm, for a moderated conversation featuring a Q&A with a BSD youth panel. Join via Zoom; RSVP and invite your friends and neighbors on Facebook!
BHS ReEnvisioning & PCBs – While work on ReEnvisioning the BHS Campus on Institute Road continues, it is important to note that the news on the extent of PCB contamination continues to worsen. I am gearing up for the possibility that we may need to explore options outside of our current ReEnvisioning plan. Right now we are solidifying a PCB Pilot Remediation Project at the old High School, which is intended to provide the District with enough information to make an informed decision about the fate of the project. We are likely to have the results in mid-to late-August. At that time, I anticipate a robust discussion about how to advance the project.
YPAR Collective Wins Award – The YPAR collective at EMS has won the American Educational Research Association (AERA)’s Grassroots Community & Youth Organizing for Education Reform SIG Impact Award! They were honored with this international award because of “the Collective’s impressive level of multi-systemic impact, including the impact on youth. The anti-racist and collaborative content of the work aligns with where our society needs to be headed.” Congratulations to our student leaders from EMS YPAR, as well as Jeremy DeMink and Lizzy Clemmons, who have helped make this work possible. YPAR stands for Youth-Participatory-Action Research and is an innovative approach to positive youth and community development. Students conduct systematic research to improve their lives, their communities, and the institutions intended to serve them. We will be working to put out a press release next week!
Pandemic EBT Letters Mailed Home – Many families in Vermont received notice that they would be getting an additional benefit because they have one or more children qualifying for free school meals – this new benefit is called Pandemic EBT (P-EBT). P-EBT provides funds to help families impacted by the COVID school closure to stretch their food budget. We recently mailed home personalized letters in 10 languages to every BSD family; if you haven’t already, please double-check that the information on the letter (student name and date of birth, head of household name, and mailing address) was accurate. P-EBT will be available for any household with children who would be receiving free school meals if not for the current school closure:
- Households who qualified for free/reduced-priced meals this school year, or
- Households attending a school where every student gets free breakfast and lunch
Go Seahorses! It’s official, the BHS Bowling Team is going to the Championship match Saturday at 9 AM against South Burlington… GO SEAHORSES!!!
We are Hiring! Please spread the word, we have several openings in our property services department, including custodians, bus drivers, grounds workers, and HVAC technicians. If you know someone who is interested, please direct them to our website!
|BSD COVID Dashboard|
|# of cases since last update: 3/12/21||7|
|# of locations since last update: 3/14/21||6|
|# of cases since return from break||8|
|# of locations since break||6|
|Total cases (first case 12/10/20)*||63|
|Surveillance Testing Participation|
|Round One Participation (11/20/20)||363/1176 (31%)|
|Positive Results from Round One||0|
|Round Two Participation (1/6/21)||235/1176 (20%)|
|Positive Results from Round Two||0|
|Round Three Participation (2/4/21)||124/1176 (10.5%)|
|Positive Results from Round Three||0|
|*The State of Vermont Publishes a list ofall Cases in Vermont K-12 LearningCommunities While Infectious.|