A Message From Superintendent Tracy Wrend
As we transition into a new phase of COVID-19 response, our focus and strategies are evolving. Just over a year ago, our focus was on supporting everyone to stay home and stay safe. With the start of school in September, health and safety operations along with responding to the first positive cases in our school communities became the new norm. Now, we are entering a new phase, where vaccinations are increasingly available, and we know a lot more about effective strategies for preventing and mitigating the spread of COVID-19 based on our experiences and a growing body of science and data.
As we look to the very near future, we can expect the impact of vaccinations to begin to emerge in mid-April. Locally, we expect all school employees who want the vaccine to have had the opportunity to reach full vaccination status by mid-May. And, warm weather makes ventilation and time outside even easier, simplifying another layer of prevention of the spread of COVID-19.
Going forward, we expect our communication to focus solely on universal strategies for prevention and mitigation and any necessary changes in school operations. We will continue communications directly with students and families who have tested positive or are close contacts. This shift will better protect the privacy of individuals and hopefully support increased communication between families, school officials, and the Vermont Department of Health to coordinate response and support for those impacted.
With your partnership and support, and this new vaccine phase, we expect much of our work to focus on the opportunities to increase in-person instructional time. As indicated previously, we are eager to start with an expansion to four days per week of in-person instruction for students in grades 7 and 8 at both SMS and PAML. In the meantime, we continue to work on other possibilities, including planning for traditional end-of-year events that have great social-emotional significance to students and mark important rites of passage, such as graduation, and class and grade level traditions. While these will undoubtedly continue to look different, we are excited about possibilities for more in-person connections.
While we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, I cannot underestimate the importance of following Vermont’s guidelines. Even though students may mix at school, work, or other allowable activities, gatherings of multiple households within social pods outside of school are not allowed unless all are fully vaccinated. Additionally, multiple allowable interactions, such as participating in multiple recreational youth sports activities, working a part-time job, going to the gym, and participating in youth fitness, art, or dance classes, can have a widespread impact which ultimately may limit our ability to be together for learning, special events like graduations, and sports. We are reaching the end of the marathon, and it is time to draw on the deepest reserves of strength for the final push.
Along with the changing health dynamic, our focus is increasingly on recovery. We are excited about the opportunities to apply lessons learned and successes to future instructional and support planning. Expect more information on plans for systemic approaches to strengthen academic progress, attendance and engagement, and social-emotional well-being and mental health. We have an exciting opportunity to weave local strengths and partnerships, research and best practices, innovation and creativity, and federal funding together to create a system of supporting our students and schools over a multi-year time frame to ensure that our students succeed in the post-pandemic world.