Dear Parents and Caregivers:
I wanted to reach out with a weekend update as we enter back to in-person instruction next week. Before I do that, I did want to acknowledge the tragic assault on our nation's Capitol Building last week. I continue to be overwhelmed by the images of that day. Because of the unsettling and emotional nature of this event, I did ask the staff to remain open to listening to our students who may have questions and concerns; especially in the older grade levels (5 and up). I received some very positive feedback about the professional nature by which they undertook this difficult task of listening and facilitating.
Our country is very young, but it continues to provide a beacon of hope for freedom and democracy around the world. I think we did show the world that we will always stay the course and we will always uphold the Constitution of these United States - even when tested beyond belief. I am proud to be an American and to be so blessed to be born into the greatest country on the face of the Earth. We pray for the families of those who lost their lives on Wednesday. I hope their lives were not lost in vain and that we can now start to settle and heal as we have many times in the past.
Let me share some updates:
1) We completed our staff surveillance testing last week and so far we have one staff member at the Weathersfield School who tested positive. The principal, nurse, and I will work with the VDH to determine if any additional quarantining or testing needs to occur. If you do not hear from us, then you can assume all is well. This was a big part of the reason for our remote week. We certainly see a spike in cases throughout the nation and in our own state of Vermont. We need to stay vigilant with our masking, distancing, and hand washing. We have done a great job in this state and in this school district. We will always err on the side of caution. I appreciate all the support that the staff and our parents have provided throughout this pandemic.
2) As alluded to in previous emails, we are planning a significant schedule change for grades K through 8 at the semester mark (January 25th). We will be increasing the instructional day by 1 hour. The instructional day will be from 8:15 to 1:15 every day. This will push the bus schedule slightly earlier in the morning along with parent drop-offs. The same will happen in the afternoon with bus pickup and parent pickup. We are leaving the detail of all this scheduling to the individual buildings. We know that grade spans and staffing patterns are different in each of our communities. So there needs to be some flexibility. Please stay tuned for more details, but we wanted you to know early so that you can start to organize for the different arrival and pick up times. We will also be welcoming some additional students to each building who have been remote throughout the first semester. We do have the space and we can accommodate. We look forward to seeing them.
No schedule in this pandemic is perfect. But I know that the administration and staff have worked hard to have all students in person 5 days a week. There may be some surrounding districts who do a longer school day, but it usually means one full remote day every single week. We have avoided that. We like the consistency of daily contact. It does provide for a continuity of learning. Please be advised that when we make this change there will be no expectation for remote WIN time in the afternoon. All instruction will occur within that 5-hour period.
3) We continue to await word on vaccines for faculty and staff. There is some indication that this could happen within the next 30 to 45 days. Our nurses have been vaccinated along with LNAs. They certainly deserve to be at the front of the line. I also found out that all veterans can be vaccinated, regardless of age. They simply need to call the VA. This is also a well-deserved bump because of their service to our country.
4) We continue to assess the athletic situation in our district. Right now we are accommodating grades 9 through 12 in basketball. The restrictions are many and the work is hard. All coaches are doing a great job. We still have no word about competition and we don't anticipate any very soon. If the competition happens it will be much later in the winter or early spring. We continue to look at grade 7 and 8 in particular. Right now we do not have the capacity to offer anything at the middle level. We are trying to look at creative ways to make this happen. Stay tuned.
5) This is budget season. The school boards in each of our three districts are working hard to finalize those budgets. We are grappling with a significant increase to health benefits (10%), negotiated salary increases, and significant high school tuition increases in two of our towns. We find that people are moving to Vermont and many of those people find high school choice attractive. Therefore our two towns with high school choice are facing increases that are beyond their control. The towns are also trying to settle on annual meeting dates. Normally those would be in March. I think they will continue that way in Windsor and West Windsor. But Hartland and Weathersfield are considering moving town meeting to a later date. You will certainly be hearing more about that soon.
I think that's it for now. We do look forward to the return to in-person next week. I appreciate all the support we get from our parent community. I hope 2021 turns out to be the best year ever for all of you.
Stay well and be safe,
Dr. David Baker
Windsor Southeast SU