Dear Parents, Caregivers and Staff:
This has been a tough week for COVID positive infections in all of our districts. At last count, we had over 40 positive students and/or adults resulting in over 60 Test-To-Stay protocols daily. The VDH is maxing out on their capacity to help with contact tracing, so we have to do our own at times. Our staff, particularly our nurses, are overwhelmed at times. I want to give them a big shout out because they continue to stay the course under very difficult conditions. This week we nearly ran out of TTS kits and we are only testing, by VDH protocol, the unvaccinated. We are monitoring the situation carefully. If this continues, we may have to have a few classes go remote. The goal is to get to the Holidays without that happening. I just wanted to give a heads up. All that said, the staff is doing a great job under very stressful conditions. We share the stress with other districts throughout our region and the entire state.
Here are a few updates:
1. Staying the Course: We need help to bring the COVID infection rates down. We have to stay with all of the protocols we originally established both at home and at school. Those protocols are on the website and they include vigilant masking, sanitizing, and faithful following of all quarantine procedures. If you have been told by school personnel to quarantine, this means complete isolation. If you have had contact but feel fine, the temptation is to carry on with life as usual. But many of our cases are coming from close contact after school hours. Clearly we are all tired of this, but we have to protect one another. I know this can be controversial, but I want to point out that over 90% of our positive cases, both students and staff, are in the unvaccinated column. If you are unvaccinated your risks of infection are far more increased and you then run the risk of infecting those around you. We have seen this in unprecedented proportions over the last couple of weeks. It is also time to think about our Booster Shots. This includes many of our older high school students. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends all adults get a Covid-19 vaccine booster. Adults who have had the Pfizer or Moderna Covid-19 vaccines are eligible to get a booster six months after their second shot. Those who got the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine are eligible for a booster of any authorized vaccine two months after their first dose. On Thursday, the FDA authorized the Pfizer vaccine for use as a booster in people ages 16 and 17. Just like with adults they are eligible for a booster six months after they've had their second dose. It's the first Covid-19 booster authorized for this group. This still remains between you and your PCP, but we would ask that you consider your booster and, if unvaccinated, consider getting vaccinated.
2. Second Dose Vaccinations: We had a successful kick-off at our pediatric vaccine clinics before vacation. Hartland vaccinated over 90 children between the ages of 5 and 11 on Thursday. The Mount Ascutney District vaccinated over 100 children. And Weathersfield vaccinated 50. We want to thank our partners at the Springfield Office of the VT Department of Health. We are also aware that many of our parents have secured the pediatric vaccine privately. If you did get the vaccine privately, please let your school nurse know ASAP.
Remember, this is a two-dose process. Reminder that the dates for the second Dose are as follows:
> Hartland from 9:00 AM to Noon on December 9th (2nd Dose);
> Weathersfield from 9:00 AM to Noon December 13th (2nd Dose);
> Windsor from 9:00 AM to 12:00 noon on December 17th (2nd Dose).
3. High School Winter Athletics: Our COVID Athletic Handbook is now updated with new information for the winter. You can find it at this link. High school sports started on Monday, November 29th. Middle school (7 & 8) starts on Monday, December 6th. Elementary (grades K-6) will begin after the Holiday Break (January 5) if they are using our gymnasiums. High school games will start in December. Middle school will start in January. We will follow the Home Team protocols when we travel. Home game protocols in our gym include masking at all times and arrive-play-leave. With respect to high school spectators, only home team spectators will be allowed. If the number of COVID infections continues to increase, we will revisit the player and spectator protocols. This is another reason to follow protocols and to be especially careful if you are traveling this Holiday.
4. Travel Restrictions: Speaking of travel, it is going to be important to be vigilant over the Holidays. If you are traveling outside of Vermont, for the vaccinated, the VDH recommendation is to get PCR tested 3 to 5 days upon return to Vermont and to pay particular attention to symptoms. If you experience any symptoms, then please isolate and contact your PCP or the school nurse. For the unvaccinated, the recommendation is to stay home for 7 days upon returning to Vermont, even if you test negative in the first 3 to 5 days. If you do not test, the recommendation is to stay home for 10 days and return if symptom free. For more information you can go to this site.
5. School Board Reminder: The following school board meetings remain in December. Virtual links to the remaining local school board meetings (for December) are listed below.
WSESU School Board will meet on Monday, December 13 at 6:30 p.m.
Virtual Link: https://meet.google.com/
Weathersfield School Board will meet on Tuesday, December 14 at 6:00 p.m.
Virtual Link: https://meet.google.com
6. Theater At Windsor: I had the distinct privilege of attending the Windsor theater department’s production of Macbeth last night. The students did a magnificent job even under the most trying conditions. The entire cast was masked and you could hear every word. They worked so hard to project their voices. Great job students, tech class for the sets and props, and of course our amazing director Julie Aylward.
7. Important Calendar Change: Again a reminder that we are moving the noon dismissal from December 17th to December 22nd, the day before our Holiday break. This just seemed to make more sense for families and staff. To view a copy of the calendar for the 2021/22 school year, please click here.
8. Restorative Circles: You may have heard your child reference a ‘circle up’ or a ‘restorative circle’ in the classroom and you may be wondering what they are talking about. Restorative circles are one of the approaches ( along with Responsive Classroom, Collaborative Problem Solving, Trauma Transformed Practices and PBIS ) that we use to establish, teach, and maintain the expectations for how students conduct themselves within our community. Marieke van Woerkom, researcher and trainer in social protocols, says, "Our students come to school with many issues in their minds and in their hearts. As educators, we can help them process their thoughts and feelings so they can better handle their situations and be more present in class." Restorative Circles build and restore relationships through equitable listening and sharing. Circles help to build the skills students require to manage and resolve conflicts by giving each student the opportunity to be respectfully heard. Circles are frequently utilized as a way to both resolve conflicts as well as providing an alternative path to traditional discipline. Restorative Circles are helpful in developing the group norms and personal skills needed to establish and maintain the trusting environment necessary for growth and achievement. They provide an opportunity for everyone to feel heard and validated and they help create a productive discussion.
9. Data Dashboard: Earlier this week we released our new WSESU Data Dashboard. This is a place where you can review SU wide data which is gathered from a variety of different sources. Here is the link:
If you have any questions about the dashboard, please do not hesitate to email our Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Team at CIAinfo@wsesu.net.
That is it for now. I remind you again that we are strong communities and we will get through this. A big thank you to all of you for your help during this difficult time. As always,
Stay well and stay safe.
Dr. David Baker
Windsor Southeast Supervisory Union