Weekend Update - November 12th, 2021

Dear Parents, Caregivers and Staff:

Happy Friday! This is a great time to live in Vermont. The weather has been wonderful for this time of year. Let’s hope we can get through the Holidays without any school cancellations - oops, did I just jinx that?  To that point, we will be using the same call method for school cancellations accompanied by an email. I will try to make that call as early as I can. As I stated in a previous email, we will have the first couple of snow days the “old fashion” way - simply a day off to romp in the snow.  If we approach more than three days, then we may have to resort to a remote model. The state has approved remote instruction for severe weather days. Let’s hope we do not get to that point. 

We had another rough COVID transmission week in Vermont and it always seems to hit on a Thursday. Yesterday was the highest case count ever. Here are the latest numbers from yesterday, November 11th, 2021:

> 591 new cases reported, with 53 hospitalized (14 in the ICU)
> 4.1% seven-day test positivity rate
> Most recent death reported on November 10th totaling 391 deaths statewide
> 91.3% of eligible Vermonters are partially or fully vaccinated

> 4% of Vermont children ages 5-11 are partially vaccinated

Our schools are compiling our vaccination data on a weekly basis. If your child has been vaccinated, please share that information with your school nurse. Currently, our 9-12 population is 65% vaccinated. Our middle school averages about 50% vaccinated. I am reminded of the AOE and VDH recommendation that states a school can reconsider masking and distancing protocols once it reaches an 80% vaccination rate. I want to remain cautiously optimistic that we can eventually reach that goal. I also completely understand that pediatric vaccinations are a personal choice that can only be made by the individual and/or parent in the case of a minor. Our Supervisory Union will never mandate pediatric COVID-19 vaccinations. Any requirement like that would have to come from the state, as it does with other required immunizations. That will not happen under an Emergency Use Authorization. As an aside, we did have a COVID case at Windsor on November 11th. Anyone that needed further testing or quarantining was notified. Here are the latest updates:

1. Surveillance Testing: Given our work on TTS and the Vaccine Clinics, we are not going to participate in Surveillance testing.

2. Test To Stay: We are simply waiting on the state for receipt of the test kits. We are ready to go as soon as they show up.  Remember, this program is voluntary and is only for unvaccinated students whose parents/guardians consent for their child/children to be tested to stay in case of a close contact situation. Please keep in mind that any unvaccinated children that do not participate (and are deemed close contacts to a person who tests positive with COVID) will have to quarantine and there will be no remote instruction. Using Test-to-Stay is an effort to keep our children in school. 

There is a website where parents and guardians can give consent for in-school (TTS) testing Please note that this is SEPARATE from the surveillance testing consent you may have provided previously and will be used only for TTS testing.   Please use this new site (by clicking here)  if you’d like to register your consent to have your unvaccinated student receive the rapid-result antigen (TTS) test if necessary.  

3. COVID Testing: I want to remind anyone that needs a COVID (PCR) test that Mt. Ascutney Hospital is still open for testing between 12 noon and 4:00 PM. We are also offering a public site at Windsor from 12:30 to 4:00 PM on both November 19 and December 17. You simply go to the Health Vermont site here.  Once there, select the “COVID 19” tab on the left.  Click “Testing Sites” and you will see Windsor listed in alphabetical order as a Vermont town with a test site (MAHCC and/or the school). Click “Make an Appointment” and follow the prompts.  

4. Vaccinations: Please keep in mind that a vaccinated adult or student is not subject to quarantine unless they have symptoms. We want to make vaccines proximate to the students, especially for those who have serious transportation issues. So, to that end, we continue to partner with the Springfield Office of the VT Department of Health to offer pediatric vaccines in our schools once our children are eligible. We have confirmed dates for Windsor, Weathersfield and Hartland. Reminder that the dates are as follows: 

     > Hartland from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM on November 18th (1st Dose), December 17th (2nd Dose); 
     > Windsor from 9:00 AM to Noon on November 19th (1st Dose) and December 17th (2nd Dose); and 
     > Weathersfield from 9:00 AM to 12:00 noon on November 22 (1st Dose) and December 13 (2nd Dose).  

Albert Bridge parents should register for the Windsor Pediatric Vaccine Clinic. We will work on transportation for those children on those mornings. There is also a general public vaccine clinic at  Windsor from 12:30 PM to 4:00 PM on both November 19th and December 17th. This is open to all who want their COVID Booster, but I am also told that you may register your child and bring them with you on those afternoons.  You can register for these sites here. Enter your child as a dependent and register for your site. 

PLEASE NOTE:  Pediatric COVID 19 vaccinations are totally voluntary and you must register your child and give consent for the vaccines to be given at school. Parents may not accompany their child unless they sign up for a public site.

5. High School Winter Athletics: We now move indoors for winter athletics. This is going to create some additional challenges for keeping everyone safe. We are updating our COVID Athletic Handbook to reflect some changes from last year. As soon as it is ready it will be on the website. High School sports start on Monday, November 29th. Middle School (7 & 8) starts on Monday, December 6th. Elementary grades K-6 will begin after the Winter Break if they are using our gymnasiums. Windsor has its own town gymnasium and may start their elementary program earlier.  We anticipate the same expectations for practices that we had last year - Arrive, Practice, and Leave. Students will have to be masked when in the building and there will be no public allowed in practice sessions or scrimmages. All athletic personnel have to be vaccinated.  Players are strongly encouraged to be vaccinated but it is not a requirement. We will play a full schedule for all sports. We will follow the Home Team protocols when we travel. Home game protocols in our gym include masking at all times; arrive-play-leave; no visitor fans; and there will be a limited number of home team fans allowed. We are contemplating a student section at the high school (9-12 only) because we keep increasing our high school vaccination rates. The principals and AD will share more as we get closer to “game time.”  Fans will have to be masked and distanced by their family cohort. We should be able to make a firm decision on the number of fans per player in the next week.

6. High School Victory: Our High School Field Hockey Team won the state championship last weekend!  Our football team travels to Rutland tomorrow to compete in the state championship.  It was a great athletic season this fall!   Way to go Yellowjackets!

7. Mobile App:  Our incredible IT Team created an instructional video for our PowerSchool mobile app (IOS and Android). You can have the convenience of all our school information on your mobile phone. To watch the instructional video click here

8.  Test Scores: You may have read that state-wide assessment scores went down significantly during this pandemic. This is not surprising. I was seriously concerned when they decided to go ahead with the statewide Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBAC) last year. There is so much confusion with the testing protocols during the pandemic that the results have not been publicly released. Our supervisory union uses several regular SU-wide assessments to accompany our SBAC scores. We implemented a new one this year called Exact Path. You can find out more information here. This will accompany and/or replace our Track My Progress assessment. In our first round of Exact Path, we found the information was correlated much better than with our previous SBAC scores. This is helpful. SBAC and Exact Path provide a rigorous standard. That has always been the case in Vermont. Our state scores seem low, but they are benchmarked on a high standard - and that is what we want. In the coming weeks we will be piloting a Data Dashboard. This will be accessible by our public and will report our many forms of social, emotional, and academic data. It will be reported SU-wide. We do want to put our new Strategic Plan to work by establishing baseline data and following up on a regular basis. Student wellness and performance is number one.  Our plan has established some significant social, emotional and academic goals and we have to have a way to track that progress. As soon as the dashboard is available, I will share the link. 

9. School Board Reminder: The only remaining November school board meeting is the SU meeting on November 22.  Agendas for meetings are available on the school websites within 5 days of the scheduled board meeting.  A virtual link to the remaining local school board meeting (for November) is listed below.

WSESU School Board - Monday, November 22, 2021 @ 6:30 p.m.
Virtual “Google Meet” link:  https://meet.google.com/rpf-vitm-erb
WSESU School Board Website:  https://www.wsesu.net/supervisory-union/su-board

10. Coat Drive:  One more reminder that the HergGroup of Vermont is partnering with the WSESU community to help collect cold weather wear for local families in need from November 1 through 30.  For more information regarding location drop-off and what is needed, please click here.

I think that is it for now.  Enjoy the weekend.  We wish our football team well tomorrow - let’s hope for good football weather.

Stay well and stay safe.

Dr. David Baker
Windsor Southeast Supervisory Union