Weekend Update - October 29th, 2021

Dear Parents, Caregivers and Staff:

As I sit here writing this week’s email blast, it is 25 degrees out and that tells me that we’re heading into the winter season. It has certainly been a beautiful fall - with some  summer temperatures woven in.  This week, I want to thank our custodians and maintenance crew again. For the last 20 months, they have been going beyond the “call-of-duty” to sanitize and clean our buildings. They continue to wipe touched surfaces all day long. Every time I walk into a building I see a custodian in the building with a wipe cloth and sanitizer in their hand. It is heavy duty and never-ending, but they do it with great care and concern for our children. After a week of declining infection rates, the state had a bad day yesterday. This reminds us that we are not over this pandemic yet. Here are the latest numbers from yesterday, October 28, 2021. (Note that our hospitalized numbers are up from last week):

> 316 new cases reported, with 57 hospitalized (6 in the ICU)
> 2.7% seven-day test positivity rate
> Most recent death reported on October 27 totaling 360 deaths statewide
> 89.6% of eligible Vermonters are partially or fully vaccinated  

1. Surveillance Testing: This remains on hold for now. We just can’t ramp up for TTS and Surveillance Testing at the same time.

2. Test To Stay: Planning is well underway. I want to thank Laurie Brown and our nurses for putting so much time into this. There  was quite a bit of  paperwork that accompanied this program. I want to thank all of our parents who responded to our surveys. A majority of parents that responded indicated that they would like to  have the trained school staff swab the noses of their children. Remember, this program is voluntary and is only for unvaccinated students whose parents/guardians consent for their child/children to be tested. 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. Of course school work will be provided for those students in quarantine. Using Test-to-Stay is an effort to keep our children in school. We hope to have everything up and running by November 15th. This includes a website where parents and guardians can give consent for in-school (TTS) testing.  Please use this new site (by clicking here)  if you’d like to register your consent to have your student receive the rapid-result antigen test if necessary.  We hope we do not have close-contact incidents, but if we do this TTS program should avoid much of the quarantining we have been subject to for the last 20 months.  

3. COVID Testing: I want to remind anyone that needs a COVID (PCR) test that Mt. Ascutney Hospital is open for testing between 12 noon and 4:00 PM. 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). Click “Make an Appointment” and follow the prompts.  We appreciate the hospital bringing this testing closer to all of us. What a great resource to have in our Supervisory Union.

4. Vaccinations: Another way that we will avoid quarantining is to ensure that our students are vaccinated. Remember, a vaccinated adult or student is not subject to quarantine.  The CDC and the VDH have also drawn a strong correlation between vaccinations and transition rates without masks. So, it is my strong belief that if we can get our buildings vaccinated, then we will be able to revisit masking in our buildings. I see the mask fatigue that sets in with adults and children. So, to that end, we are partnering 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 and Hartland. The dates are as follows: Hartland from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM on November 18th (1st Dose), December 17th (second Dose), and in Windsor from 9:00 AM to Noon on November 19th (1st Dose) and December 17th (2nd Dose).  We are working on a date for Weathersfield, but we are totally at the disposal of the VDH scheduling system and they wanted to prioritize “Free and Reduced” lunch count.  Weathersfield has the lowest count and will be scheduled last. We are hoping before the holidays set in, but no later than January.  Albert Bridge parents who want to register for the Windsor Pediatric Vaccine Clinic may do so and we will work on transportation for those children on those mornings. We will keep you posted. Of course, all of this depends on the final approval of the pediatric vaccines and we anticipate that very soon. 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. Just keep in mind that the pediatric  availability will not show up until the vaccines are finally approved. This is 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. Quarantining: We had one positive case this week at Albert Bridge, but it did not warrant any further quarantining or testing. We just got word from the Vermont Department of Health and the AOE that we do not have to contact-trace outdoors any longer. We also only trace and quarantine students who are in the same seats on a school bus if we get a positive case. This, with the TTS program, should help keep more children in school. With this message from the  AOE came a warning that the winter season brings new challenges. More activities happen indoors and the holidays can potentially bring more “spreader events,” especially for the unvaccinated. Just be careful and stay safe.

6. Calvin Coolidge Scholarship:  I wanted to reference a very prestigious scholarship that is generated out of Plymouth, Vermont, but is open to all students across the nation. It is open to all Juniors who are enrolling in a college in 2023 and are US Citizens or permanent residents. It is a full ride, four year merit scholarship. You can find more information about the criteria here. And you can find the application here

7. Winter Sports Guidance: As we move some of our sports indoors the challenges for viral spread increase. We just got guidance from the state on Winter sports and it can be found here. The Southeast Superintendents will be meeting soon to use this guidance to provide some consistency in how we approach the guidelines. Again, if we could ensure that all students and spectators are vaccinated, we could do this quite easily. But our building vaccination rates for those students eligible in grades 7-12 are running at about 50%. This is not good enough to avoid certain restrictions. We will have a winter season K-12, but we are working on the protocols. At the very least there will be masking indoors. And more than likely some restrictions on spectators. As soon as our guidelines are available, I will get them out to everyone.

8. School Board Reminders: Below are the dates for the November school board meetings.  Agendas for meetings are available on the school websites, within 5 days of the scheduled board meeting.  Links to the local school board sites are listed below.

Mt. Ascutney School Board - Monday, November 1, 2021 @ 6:30 p.m.
Virtual “Google Meet” link:  https://meet.google.com/oge-eriq-kcr
MASD School Board Website:  https://windsor.wsesu.net/information/school-board

Hartland School Board - Tuesday, November 2, 2021 @ 6:00 p.m.
Virtual “Google Meet” link:  https://meet.google.com/uew-miob-snw
Hartland School Board Website:  https://hes.wsesu.net/information/school-board

Weathersfield School Board - Tuesday, November 9, 2021 @ 6:00 p.m.
Virtual “Google Meet” link:  https://meet.google.com/nfo-qttm-bgg
Weathersfield School Board Website:  https://ws.wsesu.net/information/school-board

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

9. WSESU Community Forum: The Mt. Ascutney School District is looking for community input regarding our Recovery Plan and ARP ESSER III Grant Funding.  This will be held in person at the Windsor Town Hall and virtually on November 8th from 6:30 - 7:30 p.m.  For more information (and the link to join virtually), please click here.

10. Coat Drive!  HergGroup 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.  Have a safe Halloween. Enjoy the weekend.

Stay well and stay safe!

Dr. David Baker
Windsor Southeast Supervisory Union