Frequently Asked Questions
Preparing the 2020-2021 school year during this unprecedented COVID-19 global pandemic is ongoing, and the situation changes as we continue to receive information from the Vermont Department of Health (VDH) and the Vermont Agency of Education (AOE). Questions specific to Essex High School can be found near the bottom of this document.
*This FAQ was posted on August 2, 2020 with the information that was available at that time. Please review this document often as it will be updated on a regular basis. As we receive updates to any of the information listed, we will post the date next to that question.
A.) School Calendar
- First Day of School
- Last Day of School (TBA)
- Hours for School Day
- Staggering Start/End Times (updated 08.27.20)
- Typical Day
- No Tuesday Early Release
- 2020-2021 Calendar
- Steps Taken (Social Distancing/Common Spaces/Symptom Screenings) (updated 08.19.20)
- Health Considerations (updated 08.19.20)
- Masks/Face Coverings (updated 09.08.20)
- Sending Children Home (updated 08.19.20)
- COVID Testing (updated 08.19.20)
- Student COVID Test Requirement (updated 08.27.20)
- Positive COVID Test (updated 09.04.20)
- Closing Schools (updated 08.19.20)
- Travel (updated 11.19.20)
- Student Mental Health
- Classroom Kits/Caddies
- Supplies Replenished (updated 08.18.20)
- Microfiber Cloths Washed (updated 08.18.20)
- Same Room/Same Caddy (updated 08.18.20)
- What are foggers? How often will foggers be used in schools? (updated 09.02.20)
- Are the chemicals and cleaning solutions safe? (updated 09.02.20)
- Do custodial staff and employees have training in disinfecting agents? (updated 09.02.20)
- How can I access Material Safety Data Sheets for all cleaning supplies? (updated 09.02.20)
- Is fogging harmful to classroom and office plants? (updated 09.04.20)
- Will the use of foggers damage papers or fabric in the classroom? (updated 09.04.20)
- What about coffee cups or water bottles left on desks overnight? (updated 09.04.20)
- HVAC/Air Filtration
- How do you plan on improving the air quality in buildings? (updated 09.04.20)
- Air Filtration Systems Updated
- Windowless Classrooms (updated 08.18.20)
- Planned Upgrades and Completed Maintenance (updated 08.18.20)
- Cohorts/Grouping of Students
- Learning Models
- Curriculum Used (updated 08.27.20)
- Consistent Curriculum (updated 08.27.20)
- Assessments (updated 08.27.20)
- Staffing (updated 08.27.20)
- Going Back to Fully Remote (updated 08.27.20)
- Hybrid if Move to Fully Remote (updated 08.27.20)
- Remote Learning
- Paying For/Providers (updated 08.19.20)
F.) Student Support Services
- Support Services (updated 08.13.20)
- Bus Schedules (updated 09.08.20)
- Transportation-Specific FAQ (updated 08.28.20)
- Bus Safety (updated 08.19.20)
- Public Transportation (updated 09.08.20)
- Preschool Pickup and Dropoff (updated 09.08.20)
H.) Parent/Student Feedback
- Holiday Travel (updated 10.31.20)
- Fall Sports (updated 08.19.20)
- Field Trips
- Food/Meals (updated 08.19.20)
- Meals for Remote Learning Days/Learners (updated 09.08.20)
- Standardized Testing
- School Pictures (updated 09.15.20)
- Lockers/Locker Rooms (updated 08.13.20)
- Classroom Pets (updated 08.27.20)
J.) EHS Specific
The EWSD will reopen on Tuesday, September 8. We can’t wait to welcome you back!
All school districts in Vermont are waiting on guidance from the Agency of Education on this topic, as it is currently being discussed.
The learning models include:
- In-Person Learning - 100% in-person learning, five days a week, grades PreK - 12 provided health guidelines and restrictions are followed.
- Remote Learning - Remote/online learning, grades PreK - 12. Must be available for all students.
- Hybrid/Blended - Teaching and learning with some students at home and some in school.
*As of July 22, 2020, schools will open this fall in the hybrid model.
There is no plan district-wide to stagger the start and end times. Individual schools may stagger times to associate our youngest students with the building and routines, similar to previous years.
Cohorting refers to the practice of ensuring that student and staff groupings are as consistent as possible every day by having the same group of children stay with the same staff (all day for younger children, and as much as possible for older children) and this would also help with contact tracing if needed. Building principals should maintain structures that support students with individual needs while minimizing the intermingling of cohorts. The number of students who select in-person learning, together with other school-specific scheduling needs will determine cohort sizes on a school-by-school basis.
While the EWSD is in the hybrid learning model, families can choose either full remote or the hybrid learning model based on what will work best for them by filling out the Supplemental Registration Form that was emailed out to all families. Please complete the form and submit by Friday, August 7. Families/students will be able to change from remote to in-person or vice versa at certain intervals after the start of school. If a family selects the remote model, we would ask that you stay with that for at least the first eight weeks as this will help us maintain class sizes. The District can work with families on a case-to-case basis if there is a change.
The EWSD has a contract with our teachers, which defines the student day and number of hours per day.
Unfortunately, we cannot predict that outcome. Our ultimate goal is to have ALL students back to the traditional learning model of in-person learning. We will continue to consult with public health officials for guidance.
We will be assessing the hybrid mode, with half our students in our buildings, and if all goes well and again if COVID numbers stay low, we will look to bring our K-5 students back to in-person learning five days a week. We will be assessing this during our first month of school.
Mental health support will continue and will be more important now than ever. We realize due to COVID and remote learning this spring, students may have additional needs. Our schools will continue to provide services so every child will be set up for success. If you have specific needs you'd like to address about your child, please be sure to contact your individual school.
The EWSD had considered reducing the density of students within a building and having all students attend school five days a week by utilizing other spaces within the community (i.e. Champlain Valley Fairgrounds). In the end, we determined it would necessitate a significant increase in staffing - essentially requiring two teachers per classroom. While there are anticipated relief funds coming to the state and the district eventually, this doubling of staff would cost tens of millions of dollars and it is impractical to think EWSD would be able to find hundreds of licensed teachers to hire and train in 12 weeks.
- Students will likely go to recess in staggered shifts to limit groupings outside at once.
- Students will need to wash or sanitize their hands before going outside and before coming back inside.
- Use of water fountains is not permitted. Students should bring water bottles from home or be provided water bottles to use at school.
Essex Westford Schools will continue to provide meal service to students to the extent possible for in-person and remote/online learners. Therefore, the meal service program may be a combination of in-school serving and a ‘grab and go’ program similar to the one implemented in the spring of 2020. While Food and Nutrition Services awaits guidance from governmental agencies, specifics regarding meal distribution and student identification will be communicated as they become available.
- In Step II, with cafeterias closed, students will be offered school meals in their classrooms.
- Generally, there will be one model of meal distribution for K-8 and another model for 9-12.
- In addition to in-school meals, the District will continue curbside pick-up to ensure access to school meals for all students remote or remote that day.
- Multi-day distribution of meals will be more common at curb-side pick-ups, allowing families to pick up 1, 3, or perhaps even 5 days worth of meals.
- The District will support whatever efforts occur to provide school-day supervision.
- The District will also support whatever efforts may develop to provide home delivery of meals as was done throughout the spring.
We are asking that families preorder using this form. Meal pickup sites are open on Mondays and Wednesdays from 9 until 10 in the morning. Monday pickups are for B-day cohorts (3 breakfasts and 3 lunches) and full remote learners (5 breakfasts and 5 lunches). Wednesday pickups are for A-Day cohorts (3 breakfasts and 3 lunches). The locations are below.
-Albert D Lawton located in front of the school-Essex Elementary School located behind the school off Rt. 128-Westford School located in front of the school
No volunteers, visitors, or non-employees should access the building during the school day. Drop-off spaces will be set up outside of the main doors for parents to place items to be delivered to students. Systems for checking students in and out of school during the day may need to be changed to meet public health guidelines.
The use of lockers and locker rooms will be prohibited.
We will not have an early release each Tuesday this year. Professional development for teachers will still take place, but it will start at the end of the school day each Wednesday instead.
The Vermont Agency of Education declared fall sports will begin on September 8, 2020.
- School-based fall sports programs may initiate coach-led practice sessions (e.g., skills and drills work) and intrasquad scrimmages within your school program no earlier than the first day of academic instruction (Middle School athletics are limited to 75% of high school seasons and will begin later in September).
- Facial coverings are required to be worn by all players, coaches, officials, staff, and spectators at all times, including during active play. An exception is provided for participants in cross country running – both practice sessions and interscholastic meets/competitions – so long as physical distancing is maintained between individuals using staggered starts or other means.
- All athletics will begin in Step II and only involve coach-led practice sessions (e.g., skills and drills work) and inter-squad scrimmages within our own school program
- Interscholastic games, meets, and competitions may only occur after the State achieves Step III.
- In Step III, games and meets may only occur between or involve Vermont-based teams or teams from counties eligible for quarantine-free travel, based on the most recent map published by the Agency of Commerce and Community Development.
- Outdoor Sports Involving No or Low-Contact: Cross Country Running, Golf, and Bass Fishing
- Outdoor Sports Involving Short-Duration, Incidental Contact: Soccer, Field Hockey, and Volleyball* (Volleyball is classified as an Indoor Sport Involving Short-Duration, Incidental Contact. This classification is unique in that indoor inter-squad scrimmages may occur. EWSD has chosen not to have any athletics utilize gymnasiums or locker rooms, all be situated outdoors)
- Sports Involving High Contact: Football and Cheerleading (Full contact scrimmages, games and cheer stunting will not be allowed during the Fall 2020 season. Low contact alternatives, such as 7-on-7 football or sideline cheer, may be considered)
- Prioritize outdoor, as opposed to indoor, activity (e.g. training sessions and matches) as much as possible for all fall sports programs.
- Facial coverings are required to be worn by all players, coaches, officials, staff, and spectators at all times (Cross country is currently exempt, guidance may change in the coming weeks).
- During times when athletes are not actively participating in practice or competition, appropriate physical distancing should be maintained.
- Teams should structure team meetings to limit congregation and ensure physical distancing between players on the sidelines or benches.
- During competition, alter the spacing of players, coaches, officials, and staff to achieve physical distancing to the greatest extent possible.
- If restroom facilities (including portalets) will be provided for spectators, they should be cleaned and disinfected regularly, consistent with CDC guidance. If restroom facilities will not be available for public use, notify spectators ahead of time so they can prepare appropriately.
- Concession operations must adhere to the most current guidance published by the Agency of Commerce and Community Development for foodservice operations.
- No sharing of water bottles.
- No spitting on the field or sidelines
- Encourage parents/caregivers or other designated adults to transport participants to off-site, interscholastic games to minimize the number of participants requiring bus transportation.
- Anyone utilizing bus transport is required to wear facial coverings on the bus and comply with all other relevant guidelines in the most current health guidance published by the Agency of Education related to bussing and transportation.
- Equipment and other supplies touched by participants must be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected regularly. Limit sharing equipment as much as possible.
As we approach the holiday season and have many families wanting to travel or host guests in their homes, we think it is important that we share information with you in regards to student learning, quarantining, and traveling.
Understandably, questions have come up regarding how to support students who miss their in-person instruction if they stay home when ‘quarantining.’ The purpose of this communication is to clarify our approach to learning when having to quarantine and to share thoughts about travel.
During the global pandemic, we have worked hard to build capacity to support students in-person, through a hybrid model, or in some cases 100% remote. Creating these options have relied on hard work, creativity, and leveraging additional resources.
If students are directed to stay home for up to 14 days by the Department of Health and/or the EWSD because they have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and/or they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, reasonable efforts will be made to provide instruction and/or accommodations and supports, so that students can continue to access their education, if healthy enough to do so. Any absence will be considered ‘approved.’
If due to voluntary travel,* a student needs to quarantine at home and miss in-person instruction, we can not guarantee that we will have the resources and ability to provide instruction and/or accommodations to access missed in-person instruction. In these cases, absences will be considered unexcused.
Traveling to a county or state that is deemed as red or yellow and not quarantining puts our community at risk. We are hearing of students, all ages, traveling to other areas that are in red or yellow counties to play sports and for leisure activities. This requires the student to quarantine, as we do not want to put our communities and schools at risk. In these circumstances, the expectation is that your student will need to make up the missed learning when they are able to safely return to in-person instruction.
We understand that the holidays are going to be really hard for all of us and at the same time it is important to keep our communities safe and healthy. Most of my family doesn’t live in Vermont and my mom is in an assisted living facility, it breaks my heart to think about us not being able to spend time with her or my own children. If we aren’t careful, we will be in the same situation as we were last spring and having to go fully remote.
We need to do our part in preventing that from happening. We have protocols in schools to stop the spread and the state is doing a great job with testing and contact tracing. We are all in this together and we, as a community, need to do all we can to keep our schools open and our students and staff healthy and safe.
Please read the following from Leah Costello, an MD at Timber Lane Pediatrics:
“Parents, it is now our turn to step up and show that same level of commitment to our community. It is our job to keep COVID 19 out of the schools … We have a 3 step process to follow ‘Six foot spaces, Mask on faces, Uncrowded places.’ But parents, I think we can go farther than that. Think about what is truly essential in your day to day activities. If you really need to do an activity, then do it with safety measures in place. If you think about it and realize it is not truly an essential activity, then revise your plans to a safer alternative. The schools are making sacrifices for us and we need to do the same for them.”
If our school staff learn about a student or family who traveled to a red or yellow county, the nurse at that school will reach out to the family to confirm and if true, students will then be required to quarantine.
Please also take the time to review the following two important documents: the Latest CDC and Vermont Department of Health Guidance and Travel, Visitor, and Daily Recommendations for EWSD Staff and Families. You can also visit the EWSD’s 2020-2021 webpage for all information, frequently asked questions, and more related to COVID-19.
*Extenuating circumstances (e.g., travel for a funeral/memorial service) will be considered. Based on consideration of these circumstances at the school level, remote instruction and/or accommodations and supports may be provided.
Q1: The guidance states that the six-foot number for separating student workspaces is a recommendation not a requirement. Could you clarify the intent of this measure? Classrooms and other school spaces should be set up to ensure a minimum distance between students. For students in grades PreK-6, the minimum distance is three feet. For students in grades 7-12, the minimum distance is six feet.
Q2: Could best practices include spacing student workstations closer than 6 feet apart when aligned in the same direction? If plastic barriers are installed between student work stations, how might that measure help reduce the spacing? Aligning workstations in the same direction or installing barriers does not alleviate the requirement to ensure minimum distances are maintained. Turning workstations to face in the same direction is a best practice detailed in the Strong and Healthy Start Guidance, but is not a substitute for maintaining minimum distances.
Q3: Do kids PreK-Grade 6 who are outside need to be masked? Yes. Students of all ages need to wear masks if they can’t maintain a 6-foot distance, including students in PreK-Grade 6 and including when they are outside. Students and staff may remove their masks (“take a mask break”) if they are outside and can ensure that they will be more than six feet apart for the entire time they have their masks off. Safety and Health FAQ 1: Physical Distancing (Revised: October 29, 2020) Page 2 of 2
Q4: Does the transition from Step II to Step III affect the requirement for physical distancing? No. The transition from Step II to Step III does not affect the physical distancing requirements. The minimum distancing requirements are applicable to both Step II and Step III.
Q5: How should schools manage distancing during snacks and meals when masks are off? Students in grades PreK-6 need to be at least 3 feet apart while eating/drinking. Students in grades 7-12 need to be at least 6 feet apart. Masks should be worn during mealtimes anytime students are not actually eating or drinking. Masks should be on when students are receiving their meals and when they are disposing of their trash and trays. Masks should only be removed when students are about to start eating and they should be replaced as soon as students are done eating.
- EWSD has hired a COVID-19 Coordinator, Diana Smith (former FMS School Nurse)
- Throughout the summer we had task teams designated to establish health and safety protocols (including policies and procedures, facilities and supplies, education and training, communication and messaging, etc.).
- Administrators and nurses have plans on how to manage infection prevention, communication, and education programs should anyone in the school test positive for COVID-19.
- The Health Department is actively developing tools to support this planning for when there is a positive case, including communication plans for staff, families, and the community.
Utilize six feet of social distancing where possible:
- Individual space should be six feet apart from others in the classroom when possible
- Individuals should be facing in the same direction
- Movement in hallways should maintain the six feet distancing when feasible
Use of common spaces:
- Cafeterias, gymnasiums, and auditoriums are prohibited for large group gatherings or mixing cohort groups
Symptom screening expectations will be implemented:
- All staff and students must participate in symptom screening once a day upon entry
Hand washing and hygiene protocols must be followed
Student classroom cohort groupings are consistent and limited to the same classmates to the extent possible
- Elementary students will be with their same cohort group of classmates during the day
- All students/their families and staff will conduct daily monitoring for COVID-19 exposure and symptoms. We will be implementing an app for this and for those that don’t have the ability to access an app we will provide a paper/online form.
- Exposure is defined as: close contact with a person who has COVID-19 within the last 14 days (Someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from 48 hours before illness onset until the time the patient is isolated).
- COVID-19 symptoms include the following: Cough, Fever (100.4 or greater), Shortness of breath, Chills, Fatigue, Muscle pain or body aches, Headache, Sore throat, Loss of taste or smell, Congestion or runny nose, Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
All staff and students will be required to wear facial coverings while in the school buildings, as well as outside where physical distancing cannot be maintained. Students who have a medical or behavioral reason for not wearing a facial covering should not be required to wear one and those decisions should be made in partnership with the health care provider and school nurse.
Facial coverings may be removed during outdoor activities where students and staff can maintain physical distancing and have ready access to put them back as needed when activity stops.
The use of clear facial shields for students and adults is allowable as long as they meet all of the health guidance of the Vermont Department of Health. Students will be provided a mask if they forget to bring one to school. Masks will be required to be worn in the classrooms. Students enrolling for in-person learning are expected to adhere to all public health and district guidelines, protocols, and procedures established at schools to create a safe and secure learning environment.
Children with documented allergies or well-controlled asthma do NOT require a medical clearance note from a healthcare provider to enter school. However, a child with a new diagnosis of asthma during the school year will require written confirmation from the student’s healthcare provider.
Our instruction on use of face coverings will rely on information shared with us by medical experts and state officials. Vermont has a mask mandate in place that we will follow and educate students about. The District will use instructional materials and information provided to us by VT Department of Heath and VT Agency of Education.
As of Saturday, August 1, 2020, Vermonters and visitors have been required to wear masks or cloth facial coverings over their nose and mouth any time they are in public spaces, indoors or outdoors, where they come in contact with others from outside their households, especially in congregate settings, and where it is not possible to maintain a physical distance of at least six feet (In Vermont, masks are now required to help prevent the spread of COVID-19).
Our school buildings and grounds are public spaces. Aligning with the Governor’s order, we are requiring facial coverings while in the building. When outside on our grounds, if adequate physical distancing cannot be maintained, face masks are required. Face masks are required on school buses and public transportation.
Facial coverings may be removed during outdoor activities where students and staff can maintain physical distancing and have ready access to put them back on as needed when activity stops.
There are some masks that are not appropriate for use at school. These include gaiters, bandanas, ball cap shields, and masks with respiratory valves. If a student wears one of these masks, they will be given an appropriate school mask to replace it.
It is EWSD’s responsibility to work with families to assist our students in wearing facial coverings in school. As we know from science, this protects them as well as others around them. We will be proactive in teaching the reasons to wear a face mask. When students who are able to wear masks do not comply with staff requests to wear their masks consistently and appropriately, administrators will intervene to correct the behavior in developmentally responsive ways that may start with redirection and go as far as to send students home until they are in compliance with masking expectations.
All conversations will begin with education about why masks are essential and required and families will be notified and included in the conversation. If students are repeatedly out of compliance with masking expectations, school administrators may need to go so far as to remove the option of in-person learning and move a student to the remote learning platform on a longer-term basis. The health and safety of other students, staff, and our community requires student compliance with masking expectations.
While cloth face coverings are required, to reduce the spread of COVID-19, we recognize there are students or adults who have a medical or mental health reason for not wearing a facial covering. In these incidences, they will not be required to wear one as long as there is documentation and our nurses have an established partnership with their health care or mental health provider. For students not able to wear a facial covering, a form provided by the school will need to be signed by the health care or mental health provider. Documentation is required, there are no exceptions. Lack of documentation does not mean that students will be denied access to instruction but it may result in remote learning.
All adults dropping off or picking up children will be required to wear facial coverings.
Stigma, discrimination, or bullying will not be tolerated and if we are made aware of such behaviors it will be addressed following our C10: Prevention of Harassment, Hazing, and Bullying of Students policy.
Schools will have disposable face masks readily available to students, staff, or visitors who do not have access to them.
At this time, we are working and planning for what a typical school day will look like. We will follow the guidelines set forth by the Vermont Department of Health. We will have more details about specifics over the next few weeks. Building administrators will develop a draft plan for pick up/drop off, building entry, transitions throughout the school day, bus loading, symptom screening, lunch/recess schedules, etc. before students arrive.
If there is a case(s) of COVID in one of our schools, decisions about closure will be made based on guidance from the Agency of Education.
To help to create the safest environment possible for a return to school and recognizing that community (not school) transmission will be the primary mode of infection, and due to the 14-day incubation of SARS-CoV-2, students, families, and staff should make extra effort to avoid large gatherings and other situations that put them at greater risk for SARS-CoV-2 exposure in the weeks leading up to school opening.
If any of the signs and symptoms (cough, fever (100.4 or greater), shortness of breath, chills, fatigue, muscle pain or body aches, headache, sore throat, loss of taste or smell, congestion or runny nose, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea) begin while at school, the student (or staff member) must be sent home as soon as possible. We have isolation spaces to keep sick students separate from well students and will limit staff contact as much as reasonably possible while ensuring the safety and supervision of the sick student(s) until they leave.
Students and staff should be excluded from school until they are no longer considered contagious. The student’s or staff member’s healthcare provider may be consulted to help determine what medical course to take (e.g. whether or not they think COVID-19 testing may be necessary). The pediatric health care community is working with school nurses to determine return to school decision-making algorithms after illness and also working with adult health care providers to develop similar pathways.
Staff and students should stay home if they have tested positive for or are showing COVID-19 symptoms. Per the Health and Safety Guidance, students (or their parents if developmentally appropriate) will be asked every day to attest that they are symptom-free before the student attends school. Students and staff can return to school after they have been sick with COVID-19 when they are no longer considered contagious. If a student or staff member has a fever of more than 100.4°F, but no specific diagnosis, they may return to school after they have had no fever for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medicine, such as Tylenol or Advil.
The pediatric health care community is working with school nurses to determine return to school decision-making algorithms after an illness. Students or staff who have had close contact with a person with COVID-19 may return to school after they have completed any Vermont Department of Health-mandated quarantine. The Vermont Department of Health Epidemiology Department and Contact Tracing Team will work with schools and advise on any quarantine requirements for students and staff if they are exposed at school. The Health Department has also provided a framework for adult primary care to engage in shared decision making for school staff/educators to consider risk of COVID and chronic conditions.
Summer camps are held mostly outside and also in larger spaces. These camps are also much smaller than our schools and not serving hundreds of children per building. They do practice health guidelines and social distancing, which will help the transition of our students to return to school this fall.
The Department of Health does not recommend routine COVID-19 testing of staff or students. In the event of a case of COVID-19 in the school, the Department of Health will identify close contacts and recommend to school administrators who should be tested for COVID-19.
Visit the Department of Health’s Testing Site to learn more about who should get tested and where to get a test.
Is there any situation where a student would be required a COVID-19 test before returning to school?
This will be determined by the Vermont Department of Health.
The superintendent will work closely with our COVID Coordinator and the Vermont Department of Health to determine the next steps. A confirmation of a COVID-19 case, does not indicate to close the entire school.
The Department of Health is developing materials and algorithms to use with schools to support response actions and decisions. Communication will come from the district office to the staff, families, and the community.
Below is a general list of what to expect and actions to take if someone develops symptoms while at school or if there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 in your school.
School Districts will:
- Notify parents/caregivers and staff that a person with COVID-19 has been identified at the school.
- Encourage families to answer calls from the Health Department and participate in contact tracing.
- Clean and disinfect all areas such as offices, bathrooms, common areas, and shared equipment including frequently touched surfaces using a product effective against COVID-19.
- Students and staff who have positive test results for COVID-19 will be required to isolate at home until:
- At least 10 days have passed since symptom onset – or if no symptoms, date of test collection – and
- At least 24 hours have passed since the resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications – and
- Other symptoms have improved
- Students and staff who were in close contact with a person with COVID-19 should quarantine and stay home for 14 days since the last day they had close contact with the person with COVID-19.
If a virus outbreak requires the closure of the district or individual schools, we will be ready to serve students in a remote environment.
Any students who receive a positive COVID-19 test, at any school they attend, will receive direct support from the Department of Health on when it is safe for the student to return to school. A test may be part of that calculus but will not be necessary in all cases. The Vermont Department of Health does not provide a return to work/school clearance letters.
Other than under Step I, the decision to close schools or certain classrooms for in-person instruction will be made by the local superintendent after consulting with the Department of Health.
The Department of Health epidemiologists will provide guidance based on a number of factors, including the level of community transmission, the number of students, teachers, or staff infected, and other indicators the Health Department uses to assess the status of COVID-19, and the ability of the school to implement mitigation strategies.
Decisions to close for in-person instruction will be determined on a case-by-case basis. If the school is grouping students by cohort in a single-classroom, the Health Department's recommendation will most likely be to close the classroom for in-person instruction and exclude students and staff in the affected classrooms/cohorts/pod for a minimum of 24 hours while contact tracing is conducted.
If students are moving about in multiple classrooms, the Health Department's recommendation will most likely be to close all potentially impacted classrooms and exclude students and staff in the affected classrooms or the entire school for in-person instruction for a minimum of 24 hours while contact tracing is conducted.
Since June 17, the District has been working with the guidance provided to us from the Vermont Agency of Education and Department of Health. Our trained and licensed mechanical staff have been servicing and adjusting our ventilation systems in our 14 buildings, as well as addressing some unique needs associated with nurses' offices outlined in the guidance. All ventilation system filters will have been changed and units serviced. Going forward, the District will follow the guidance and look to change filters every three to four months, as opposed to twice per year as normal.
The fogger solution will not damage posters, student work hanging on walls, curtains, fabric, or flags. It may however damage papers left out on desks or tables so we recommend placing those in binders, drawers, or not leaving them out on surfaces. Custodial staff are careful to try work around papers left on surfaces but open cleanable surfaces are best.
The building/district office administrative assistant will request refills or ask head custodians to replenish supplies as needed. EWSD Facilities will oversee our centralized COVID-related supply/PPE program to maintain strong inventory and distribution to school sites in a responsive manner.
Custodial services staff will routinely wash microfiber cloths. They can also be washed by faculty/staff using soap/water and hanging to dry before reuse.
Yes. Each classroom will have a caddy that will be shared by any teachers using the same space. Caddies will be labeled with room numbers so that they remain in the assigned classroom.
Information on the N95 masks is available here. These masks are FDA-approved. For information on KN95 masks provided by the VT-AOE and VT Department of Public Safety, see this distribution fact sheet.
The District received 10,000 KN95 masks from the VT Agency of Education and Agency of Transportation Department of Public Safety. In addition, EWSD purchased KN95 masks for use by staff with high-risk exposure or underlying conditions. EWSD will continue to replenish the building nurse KN95 supply and reorder inventory if needed.
Few employees should need KN95 masks. In fact, with a few exceptions, School Nurses will wear disposable (surgical) procedure masks instead of a KN95. The building nurses can provide up to 4 masks for staff members with underlying conditions that put them at greater risk. Nurses will provide education about proper care for KN95 masks so they can be reused for several weeks. Each vulnerable employee requesting KN95’s from the nurse will be given 4 masks.
Product MSDS sheets are available to the public in this folder. Copies can be provided upon request and we will do our best to respond to these public information requests as efficiently as possible.
The District is working hard to assess the need for additional mechanical ventilation to support classrooms with limited airflow or no windows. This work is being done alongside a mapping project to provide detailed information about the square footage. Having quick access to search features of all our spaces to identify and address needs based on guidance from the Vermont Agency of Education and Department of Health will help us ensure that we are ready for a Strong & Healthy Start in September.
Since June, the District has been working with the guidance provided to us from the Vermont Agency of Education and the Department of Health. Our trained and licensed mechanical staff have been servicing and adjusting our ventilation systems in our 14 buildings, as well as addressing some unique needs associated with nurses' offices outlined in the guidance. All ventilation system filters will have been changed and units serviced. Going forward, the District will follow the guidance and look to change filters every three to four months, as opposed to twice per year as normal.
Keeping our students and staff safe and healthy is our top priority. To accomplish this, it will take everyone doing their part. One of the strategy layers we have concentrated on at the District level is healthy buildings. Central to this strategy is improving air quality throughout and to do this we have prioritized ventilation, filtration, and supplemental air cleaning.
Please read this document which provides further information into the air quality initiatives that the District has performed or is currently working on.
Foggers (electrostatic sprayer machines) use an EPA-approved disinfectant solution effective against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The machines and cleaning solutions are applied in a manner consistent with all labeling requirements. The EWSD’s cleaning program is outlined in the District’s Custodial Maintenance Handbook.
Electrostatic disinfectant sprayers, known as “foggers,” are some of the newest tools being used in the cleaning industry since they better ensure that disinfectant solutions are uniformly applied, especially on hard-to-reach areas. These machines use a process where the disinfectant liquid solution is electrically charged and dispersed onto the surface. The cleaning particles pass through the sprayer nozzle and cling to surfaces, neutralizing any germs and harmful pathogens. The chemical agent must be allowed time to fully dry on the surface before it can be accessed again. Our custodial services staff have done extensive testing with the foggers and evaporation on hard surfaces takes roughly 10 minutes, slightly longer on upholstered surfaces.
Foggers will be used daily in the evenings as part of custodial services’ scheduled cleaning routines in schools. Foggers will also be used to disinfect buses following routine cleaning practices after each route.
Foggers use an EPA-approved disinfectant solution effective against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Common EPA-registered household disinfectants products containing ethanol, isopropanol (isopropyl alcohol), hydrogen peroxide, L-lactic acid, or citric acid are preferred because they are safer for health and the environment. These cleaning solutions are applied in a manner consistent with all labeling requirements. You can read more about EWSD’s cleaning program outlined in the District’s Custodial Maintenance Handbook.
Product informational sheets are available to the public in this MSDS folder. Copies can be provided upon request.
All custodians and other designated staff receive training on the safe and effective use of disinfectants in compliance with all OSHA regulations. Each of the custodians has also been properly trained on how to use the equipment.
Coffee cups and other eating utensils that are left out may be impacted with residues leftover from fogging. We recommend that these items be placed in a drawer or be covered. If they are left out, they can be washed or rinsed with water prior to using them.
In light of the start of the school schedule for the Essex Westford School District (EWSD), the District has partnered with Essex Junction Recreation & Parks (EJRP) to help support students on days that they are not attending in-person learning. The program is being called “Rec Kids Supported Learning Spaces,” and will provide supervised locations from 7:30 a.m. - 3 p.m. for children in grades K-8. There will be no cost for the school day program.
“We believe it is critical that students have a safe, supervised environment to be in when they are not at school,” said Brad Luck, Director at EJRP. “Additionally, they need to be well-nourished and supported in their academic activities when working remotely. We recognize that not all parents can or want to be teachers, and not all students learn well either from their parents, or from home, or in isolation away from their peers,” said Luck.
Multiple spaces are being identified throughout the community to support the operations. They will be staffed by recreation staff and some school district staff who are capable of assisting students with their remote learning. There will be two dedicated blocks of time during each day for working on academic assignments. Students will be in grade-level spans with other students from their schools.
The rest of the day will be filled with a variety of activities to provide an enriching experience for kids. Breakfast and lunch will be provided daily by the EWSD. In addition to the learning blocks, there will be group games, recess, arts and crafts, and other engaging activities.
“This won’t be school and this won’t be childcare in a traditional sense,” said Maureen Gillard, School Age Childcare Director of Staff and Programs at EJRP, who is leading the Supported Learning Spaces initiative. She said students will be grouped by grade level or multi-grade levels together in the same space to allow for more targeted, age-appropriate, daily happenings.
“We believe that, in addition to academic support, it will be critical to create opportunities for social interaction and physical activity to support the social and emotional needs and development of our students,” Gillard added. “We are confident that this program will serve all of those needs in a safe environment, and it will be fun!”
EJRP has been providing care since March 18 in some form or another. It started as care for around 40-children of essential workers, which later expanded to 80, and this summer 180 kids were in camps each day. “We are well prepared for this and well-versed in the precautions that are necessary. Students and staff will be physically distanced, wearing face coverings, and washing hands often, with health screenings and temperature checks upon arrival,” Gillard explained.
Students will be dismissed at 3 p.m., while after school care will be available until 6 p.m. for a fee. Students will stay in their same daytime location for their after school care or walk or be bused to the aftercare site. Parents are responsible for drop-off and pick-up to and from the program, or students can walk or bike with parent permission in advance.
EWSD Superintendent Beth Cobb is excited about the partnership to support student learners, families, and teachers. “We are hoping that the start of the school year goes well and that we will be able to provide the option for families to have their kids attend in-person instruction five days a week sometime this fall. Until then, we recognize the needs of our community and are happy to support this important initiative.”
Cobb says that in addition to supporting the community, teachers need to feel confident that their children are being cared for when they are educating others. “Our teachers need to teach with the assurance that their own children’s needs are being safely met. We believe this will support them too.”
More information about the Rec Kids Supported Learning Spaces can be found on www.essexrec.org, as well as details of how and when to register. The program begins on the first day of school, Tuesday, September 8, and will continue until five days a week in-person instruction becomes available.
- The District sent a Thought Exchange out to all families and staff members to gather input on what topics they were thinking about in regards to the start of school in the fall on June 29. We had 1,949 parents and 611 staff members participate.
- The District also sent out another survey on July 10 to all families, which received 3,255 responses. This survey asked about the likelihood of sending your child(ren) back to school five days per week, the likelihood that you would send your child(ren) back to school with a blended model of in-person for two days a week and then remotely for three days a week, and if it was an option, would you prefer distance learning.
- Please know that our number one priority is to ensure the health and safety of our students, staff, and the larger community as we continue to plan for equitable access to learning this fall. This was evident as well in the comments and thoughts from parents and staff alike in the two surveys that went out.
- Our district is following the constantly-changing guidelines of the Vermont Department of Health, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Vermont Agency of Education as we prepare for the many possible return to school scenarios.
- With that information that the EWSD received, we continued planning for three different learning models as we were guided to do so by the Agency of Education (in-person, hybrid, fully remote), while also trying to stay in-sync with the other local districts so that we can create as much similarities as possible so that it can help with such things as work schedules and child care for families
Yes, the level of remote learning that will be provided will look much different this year. When the District had to close schools in the spring, we had to create a learning system from scratch in a couple of days. Now we have had months to prepare and were able to learn from what was first offered. In June, our teachers took part in professional development focused on the online platforms that we will be using. Additional online learning platform classes have also been offered this summer. There will be clear expectations given around remote learning for both students and teachers this year. One of those will be that teachers are in contact with their remote learners on a daily basis, and this will help students develop a daily schedule.
With remote learning looking a little different for all students and families, asynchronous learning allows families to have a little flexibility in their schedule so that it works best for them. While synchronous lessons are also great, laws around student privacy and FERPA need to be considered.
The District is currently working on setting up training sessions for the learning platforms for parents prior to the start of school
Yes, the District will supply Chromebooks to students for remote learning and we have enough to accomplish this.
As we continue hybrid and remote learning with your students this fall, we know that there will be some learning challenges as we adjust to a new rhythm and build routines that work best for our students. We will continue to support virtual connections between teachers and students and see real value in supporting that practice.
Teachers have reported enthused students gaining a sense of connection with their classmates and in keeping up with their studies. The means for connecting and communicating are varied and video conferencing, now not so new to many of our staff and students, is proving helpful in maintaining relationships with classrooms and individuals.
We want to remind parents that now that learning takes place in this way, partially in the home, teachers need your help in supervising and monitoring online behavior as students interact with new tools and methods. This represents a real partnership between teachers, working remotely, and you the parent, overseeing your students as they learn remotely.
With the advent of this type of learning, we have taken a renewed look at the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), as it relates to our teachers’ video conferencing with your child(ren) aged 12 and younger. We are pleased that two-way video and audio conferences between our teachers and our students are working well, but you have the right to tell us that you do not want your child to have their video camera enabled for this.
This is an "opt-out" consent, which means that if you say nothing, we will take that as consent to allow your child to fully participate with both audio and video in these conferences. Discuss your preference to “opt-out” with your students’ teacher, and they can either suggest the student turn off the video, or they can toggle it off when students join. You of course also can opt-out completely from video conferencing (notify your teacher), but during this crucial time, we urge you to allow it so students maintain a connection to their teacher, classmates, and school.
A few things to keep in mind as a parent/guardian of students using video conferencing to connect with classrooms:
- Students should dress as they would when attending school
- Students should join the video conference from an appropriate space in the home (such as at a kitchen table, desk, common space, etc., not laying/sitting on their bed or walking around with the computer in their hands)
- Students should refrain from “showing their classmates around the house,” by walking around with their computer and showing the interior of their home. This can be very awkward for students that don’t want to participate in this activity.
- A spot with good lighting is helpful. Sitting in front of a window does not work well, as the student will only appear in shadow.
- Students should observe good etiquette when joining. If the teacher has not muted students, it is best to mute the microphone when not talking to minimize background noise.
- Be aware of background noise from siblings, pets, and others in the room that might interrupt the conference. Again, mute yourself if you have background noise present and unmute when you wish to speak.
- Students need to behave appropriately when in video conferences, much as they are required to do in physical classrooms. Parents/guardians need to take a role in this endeavor to help ensure student success. It is not necessary to lurk over their shoulder, but it pays to be attentive to their interactions.
- Occasionally, there are things seen in the background that can be distracting. We encourage parents to “monitor” these sessions, but also to be aware of too much “monitoring” and allow the teacher to run their classroom.
Everyone is learning in some ‘new territory’ here. Video conferencing, though not new, is probably new to some of our students as they use it in this education scenario. We know it is still novel to many of our parents.
We need everyone to remember that this remote learning during the pandemic is still about public education and while in a different form, still requires us to be diligent about a number of aspects:
- Students and families need to know that the EWSD is making every effort at protecting privacy rights and adhering to Family Education Rights and Privacy Act guidelines (FERPA). While video conferencing certainly presents new territory, the use of it is intended to continue your child’s public education during this pandemic. Recording of video, while deemed safe with FERPA concerns, still needs to be pedagogical in its approach and contribute to quality teaching and learning. Students being subject to lengthy video recordings of classrooms can be problematic for sustained engagement.
- Related to that, we are hearing of cases where parents are “inviting” classrooms of students into video conferencing sessions independent of the classroom sessions that teachers are organizing and facilitating. These appear to have originated from parents’ own accounts in Zoom or other means. The EWSD strongly discourages parents/guardians acting in any way as “educators or facilitators” of whole class video conference sessions. This could be a violation of a host of privacy stipulations and could serve in some student’s eyes to supersede a teacher’s authority in the classroom. We would appreciate parents refraining from this activity.
Lastly, we are all in this together and as mentioned above, the role of you as parents/guardians is crucial to its success. Students should not be given unsupervised time online and parents should hold firm to limiting and monitoring time online beyond the school day.
Some of the fully remote students (the EWSD’s K-8 Remote Academy) will be taught by teachers who are currently teaching in the EWSD and we have hired other teachers to teach in our Remote Academy as well. Our Director of Learning and Instructional Impact, Jackie Tolman, will oversee the Remote Academy. Our EHS and CTE 9-12 remote students will be taught by EHS/CTE teachers.
For these individual cases, you will be able to work with the teacher and principal at the school.
We are using the same curriculum that we use in non-COVID times, with a focus on essential standards.
We are still working to align curriculum across the EWSD. This was happening prior to COVID and will continue to happen during COVID. This is the work that teachers will be doing in their Professional Learning Communities on Wednesday afternoons.
Our fully remote K-8 learners will be taught all year as an option. If we have to pivot from hybrid to fully remote, the hybrid students will be taught with their class that was hybrid. There will be alignment with the fully remote teachers, but we plan to keep the remote teachers all year if needed. This would also depend on when we are told to go fully remote (if at all). This may be adjusted and we need to be flexible.
We will be assessing our students using assessments that make sense. Our teachers need to understand where each child is at. The assessments typically used at the beginning of the year in reading and math will give the teachers information as to where a child is at. We need to use the assessments that match our standards.
The District currently has its staff in place.
To plan for the hybrid model when it was announced, the EWSD used guidance from the Vermont Department of Health and Agency of Education, which was to socially distance six-feet apart when you are in a common space for 15 minutes or more. Recently, the District has been presented with new research from American Academy of Pediatrics. We will work with this new information, which may affect the model for our younger students.
An expanding body of scientific evidence continues to support the finding that children younger than 10 years are least likely to acquire COVID-19 and least likely to transmit to others when infected, even in very close-contact scenarios, such as within households. Therefore, the added benefits of strict physical distancing in this age group are likely to be far lower than for other age groups. With these considerations in mind, the following guidance is provided on who should physically distance, and how and when this should occur:
- Adults and adult staff within schools should maintain a distance of 6 feet from other adults as much as possible.
- Teachers and staff should maintain a distance of 6 feet from students as much as possible. However, brief periods of closer contact, such as when a student may need one-on-one guidance, clarification, or assistance are expected and permitted. In these cases, staff should stand/kneel/sit side-by-side students (rather than face-to-face) for brief amounts of time (less than 15 minutes).
- Younger students (PreK through Grade 5) should be spaced at least 3 feet apart.
- When physical distancing is not possible, it is even more important for students and staff to adhere to the facial covering requirement.
We will be using the first 4-6 weeks of school to learn the routines in our cohort hybrid model with COVID expectations and procedures. During this time, we will also be assessing the procedures and protocols that have been developed and implemented. In collaboration with our Champlain Valley school district partners, we are developing a plan to phase in students kindergarten through grade five to return to full in-person learning. We will also continue to offer our fully remote option for families.
Social distance can be 3-6 feet for these younger students according to the Strong & Healthy Start guidance from AOE/VDH.This planned phased approach will only be attainable if the spread of the virus can remain contained and the guidance from the Agency of Education and the Department of Health does not change. We understand that there is always the potential to move to Step I and this will be determined by the VDH.
We will use criteria to phase in fully in-person instruction for our youngest students with VDH guidance. The criteria to determine if full in-person instruction is manageable, safe, and healthy for our youngest students:-
- Sufficient staffing levels
- No or low COVID Activity in our community
- Ability to maintain compliance with the guidance from DOH/AOE
- New routines are efficient, assessed, and adjusted to meet the needsIn collaboration with the VDH and using their guidance based on a number of factors, including the level of community transmission, using their algorithms, and other indicators they use to assess the status of COVID-19.
The Vermont Department of Health will be informing us if we need to go fully remote for everyone. It would be based on COVID numbers within Chittenden County or throughout Vermont. This is not a decision our District can make on our own. There is always a possibility that a building might need to quarantine and those students would be fully remote for a few days. This would be decided in partnership with the Vermont Department of Health and the Superintendent.
During the pandemic, the EWSD would like to continue to offer families remote learning opportunities unless otherwise required by the Agency of Education to have all learning take place in-person.
- The District’s intentions, if the numbers work out, are to have a number of teachers teaching to those families who chose full remote learning (PreK-8), while other teachers responsible for teaching for the hybrid model. For high school, students are more independent and this allows for a teacher to teach in-person and remotely by using an online platform.
- On Wednesdays, teachers will work together with our EWSD Technology staff to continuously improve our remote learning opportunities offered.
As staffing plans develop in step with student attendance choices and educator personal needs (such as health conditions, isolation requirements), the District will develop staffing mechanisms to meet the needs of educators, when reasonably possible, with the intent of understanding educator work location preference (onsite versus offsite). This information will be used at the school level to build and manage school schedules and educator assignments. This same flexibility will be considered within all groups of employees, and the District will make every reasonable effort to meet the requests and needs of staff through schedule flexibility, work location flexibility, or leaves of absence.
Student Support Services
We know that there are students who have had challenges in accessing remote special education services. In contrast, there are also students who have thrived in remote settings. Parent choice with regard to in-person versus remote settings for education will be taken into consideration by IEP teams developing the IEP for individual students. It is our intention to work with families to analyze individual student's situation regarding access to their services in an in-person versus a remote version.
We are surveying all families to gain their perspectives about their individual child's needs. This information will be used in scheduling special education services.
As a reminder, IEP decisions belong to IEP teams. The hybrid model will not be a one size fits all for special education service delivery. Determining in-person versus remote special education services will be determined based on parent preference, safety, capacity as well as individual student needs. From late August to the end of September, it is our plan to have IEP teams meet to consider service design for special education services for students on IEPs for a remote option, hybrid model, and an in-person model based on the determination of the school district and state of model of instruction available to all students..
In the meantime, the data collected from this parent survey will help us design the services for your child on the first day of school until IEP meetings can be held.
Students Eligible For Special Education And/Or Under Section 504
EWSD is committed to providing free and appropriate educational opportunities for students with disabilities to the greatest extent possible in alignment with public health guidelines. Additionally, collaboration with families continues to be essential during this time.
To address the unique needs of students with disabilities, IEP and 504 teams will continue the work together collaboratively to identify the most essential services and accommodations for each student that can be provided both directly and indirectly in remote and in-person learning environments.
IEPS will be adjusted as needed for the circumstances of the learning environment. We recognize that each student will have an individual plan based on the learning model selected by the district. When this happens, we will be working diligently to set detailed plans for the delivery of special education services.
Educator Support and Paraeducator/Paraprofessional Support
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, educators and paraeducators/
paraprofessionals have been tasked to redefine how learning happens, and they have risen to the challenge with grace and innovation.
To continue this momentum, the Student Support Services will carry on with creating avenues for learning and sharing new approaches. This will include professional learning sessions, online resources, working with current vendors for supplemental curriculum resources, and virtual collaboration platforms that support educators and paraeducators/
paraprofessionals in setting the stage for this future learning.
The District will work to make sure that schedules for teaching assistants are appropriate in light of the pandemic and that these professionals have appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) for delivering the unique supports for students with disabilities in our schools.
Child Find and Evaluation
EWSD will continue to identify, locate, and evaluate students suspected of having a disability and needing special education and related services.
At the same time, EWSD will be mindful that students have been displaced from their typical learning environment when initiating the referral process. For example, the District will be mindful not to over-identify students who are learning remotely or those who are in-person more simply because they are in a different learning environment than is typical.
Some evaluation procedures can be completed in remote learning situations. Some evaluations require in-person contact with students or observations of students in school settings. EWSD will conduct evaluations remotely and in-person to the extent possible while adhering to public health guidelines for the safety of students and staff.
Evaluations that were delayed during the 2019-2020 school year will be addressed as quickly as resources, scheduling and safety guidelines allow.
Individualized Education Program (IEP) and Section 504 Meetings
EWSD is committed to providing families an opportunity to have meaningful participation in the special education process. Consistent with recommendations from the Illinois State Board of Education, IEP and 504 meetings, and other meetings between staff and visitors/families will be held remotely, to the greatest extent possible. However, if parents/guardians are unable to engage in a required meeting remotely, socially distanced in-person meetings may be held with strong social distancing and mask wearing in place.
Special Education and 504 professionals will partner with families to determine the most practical format to conduct IEP and 504 meetings and arrange for an interpreter if necessary.
EWSD will adhere to timelines for annual IEP and 504 meetings and required evaluations. There continues to be limited flexibility from complying with federal and state laws. All Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and Section 504 timelines remain in effect.
Once any additional guidance is issued from the state and federal government, IEP and 504 teams should meet to determine whether any amendments to students IEPs or 504 Plans are necessary to address students’ current levels of performance.
Delivery of Special Education and Related Services
General education, special education, related services providers and families will discuss students’ individual needs and agree to a set of services that provide access to curriculum and enable progress toward IEP goals.
In a hybrid setting, families and staff will discuss and agree to a set of prioritized services to be delivered in-person, when possible.
Other services will continue remotely as specified in the Remote IEP Services Plan.
Consistent with expectations from the Governor’s office, face coverings must be worn. Students who are not able to wear a face covering will be required to have a note from a physician for consideration by the school-based team.
Materials (e.g., Lycra tunnel or other porous materials, sensory swing, carpet squares, foam items) must be cleaned and sanitized between uses with enough time to let the material properly dry. In-person instruction at home is allowed for medically homebound students. Specific requirements will be put in place regarding the health and safety of students and staff for homebound circumstances.
Progress Monitoring and Reporting
Special education teams will have in place consistent data collection and service log procedures for use across hybrid and remote learning environments. Collecting data and tracking the provision of services will assist educators and families in determining the effectiveness of instruction provided, student performance on IEP goals/objectives, and assist IEP teams in making any necessary adjustments to instruction.
Periodic reports on the progress the child is making toward meeting the annual goals will continue to be provided.
If students are not present, and therefore, data cannot be collected for progress monitoring on goals, the student’s case manager will work with the building based administration to consider ways to increase participation. This may also create the need for an IEP meeting to consider other necessary services.
Accommodations and Modifications
Accommodations and modifications can be provided regardless of the educational setting.
General and special education teachers will continue to collaborate in determining the appropriateness and success of a student’s unique accommodations and modifications documented.
The IEP team, (general education teachers, special education, related services providers, and families), will work collaboratively to identify alternative solutions if it believes an accommodation or modification is not appropriate or successful in a particular setting.
- Windows in the bus should be kept open except in unusual circumstances. Students should wear appropriate clothing in the event of cold or drizzly weather.
- If a student is determined to be sick, while on the bus, they should sit in the front seat, with window open, if possible. The student should not sit with any other students.
- Bus drivers (and monitors) are required to wear facial coverings while transporting students.
- Group students by age on the school bus (younger students in the front, middle-age students in the middle, older students in the back). Students who live in the same household may sit together if needed.
- If feasible, leave the seat or two behind the bus driver empty.
- Schools that utilize public transportation for a large percentage of their student body, should work with public transit companies to best assure for the health and safety of their students. These students will likely need to be screened upon arrival at school and not prior to boarding the bus.
Public transportation through Green Mountain Transit (GMT) will continue to be an option for students who wish to use it. Trips to-and-from school and school-related activities on the Orange and Blue lines will be free to students. No ID is required, however, students may be required to tell the driver what school they attend.
Please note the old ‘#4,’ also known as ‘Essex Center’ or the ‘Silver Loop’ route has been absorbed into the Orange Line this year, and schedules have changed. More information on GMT, including schedules, the “where’s my bus” app, and COVID measures, can be found at www.ridegmt.com.
Each building will develop and communicate the pickup and dropoff procedure. Reach out to the building principal to work out an alternate time for morning dropoff.
The 4x4 model was created by CVU, SBHS, EHS, MMU, and CHS principals, as well as other regional principals in June. It was brought to the regional superintendents as a way to provide our schools with in-person instruction in a safe and healthy way. It allows teachers, especially at the largest high schools in Vermont, to not come in contact with as many students as they would in a regular AB schedule. It also allows students to have less interaction with other students.
The 4x4 is another version of block scheduling. For those new to EHS, historically students participated in an A/B version of block scheduling, where they would choose up to eight courses spread across two days - four one day and four the next - and keep this schedule for the full year. In a 4x4 block schedule model students still have access to up to eight classes, with four taken for half the year, and another four the second half of the year. To make the transition more seamless, we are planning to use the A days for the first semester, and B days for second semester, as much as we can.
This was another parameter given to us early on, with the goal being to ensure that while during AOE’s Stage 2 (we at EHS are calling this the hybrid model) with about half the students in the building, everyone would be part of even smaller groups of about 150 to 200 students within the school.
The reasoning was to shrink the number of interactions to support contact tracing and minimize the possibility of COVID-19 to spread throughout the building. Given this parameter, the pod model was investigated looking at three and four different groups. We looked at what would be gained in safety by doing this versus what might be lost in opportunities for students.
As of July 29, this restriction has been loosened and we are now able to create models that include larger cohorts of students without changing what students are registered for significantly.
There were never any deep conversations about losing courses, especially advanced and upper-level courses. Where we ran into struggles was looking at three and four groupings within the building.
For every additional group we added, the risk under COVID-19 appeared to reduce, however so did the number of courses available to all students. In brainstorming conversation there were many “what if” situations brought up for discussion. For example, what if we combined 100 and 200 courses? What if a student in one group needs an AP course that is taught by a teacher in another group? What if there are students in each group that need to access the same arts course?
The end result, as of July 30, is (hopefully) a way to keep most of the courses intact, based on current health and safety guidance, while having options of a single large group (about half the student population) intermingling or three smaller groups (about one-sixth the student population) intermingling. Both options have risk advantages and disadvantages, and programming advantages and disadvantages.
For those that don’t know, EHS has an extensive offering of Advanced Placement (AP) courses. Historically, students enrolled in an AP course would take that course as one of their A or B block courses for the entire year, and take an AP exam in May. Depending on a student’s performance on the AP exam, many colleges and universities will count AP courses.
Given the required shift to 4x4 block scheduling, there are questions about how the AP courses will look. If AP courses are in the first semester then what happens to the students for the three to four months until the exam? And, if AP courses are in the second semester, then there is about a month lost in the semester where students miss out on essential learning opportunities.
These are still open questions which will require input from those closest to the work, including our AP faculty and students who’ve enrolled in AP courses.
This is another open question in which we await answers. Our goal is to provide as many extracurricular opportunities for students, in a safe and effective manner. Unfortunately we have to wait for more information, and will then update this answer.
The short answer is that we did, and still are. The first thing we had to do was learn about all the intricacies of EHS programming, and then outlined our work for the year including asking who should be at the table. Then we started small and began to widen our scope as we narrowed down the list of what we could or could not do. It was a deliberate decision to pause on feedback until we knew this list (for example, we don’t need to know who likes and doesn’t like the idea of a 4x4 as that was a mandate to our work). Then we brought in CCLs and PLC leaders to help us navigate through many of the “how would it work if we did this” type of scenarios. We also received excellent feedback from families sharing their stories and how shifts in programming will impact the various needs of all students.
In one aspect the schedule will change since students are taking only half the classes for half the year, and the other half of the classes the other half of the year. While the goal is to have students keep the same classes they signed up for, some classes which were originally A day courses may not be able to be first semester, and the same with courses typical of B days. Re-scheduling will not be perfect, and ultimately there will be a portion of the student population where the courses may need to shift.
There are many factors at play which are out of our hands, including shifts in the DOH guidelines and the requirements from the AOE. On July 29 a brief questionnaire was sent out to families, students, and staff to weigh in on two possible models. After analyzing the response along with the comments, the “final” model will be available in early August.
Whichever model is chosen, from those described in the July 29 survey or another adaptation, scheduling work will be needed to make sure students have the courses they need. Work on an updated schedule has already begun, as much as possible without knowing the final model. Students and families will be contacted as soon as this work is complete.
Students will be enrolled in their regularly scheduled A day classes with the teacher that was previously assigned. The teacher of that class will be teaching your children online. If we go with Model 1, your child will get additional support from a content teacher when in the building. If we go with Model 2, when your child is in the building your child will be taught by the same teacher they were registered with before. When your child is learning remotely they will also be taught by the same teacher they were registered with before.
All courses are planned to be virtual, so that any student can access the learning opportunities whether families choose fully remote, or part of the hybrid model. Students who have success from a remote learning environment, including those who are strong at receiving feedback via email and other asynchronous methods, and have social growth opportunities outside of school, can consider learning fully remotely.
We are asking that families make a decision and commit to it for at least one term. That being said, we are here to support you and if something changes and you really need to come back into the building please let us know and we’ll work together with you to make it happen. Families can decide to go fully remote at any time. Students who are fully remote and not doing well can be required to come back into the building.
We do expect that student-athletes attend practices/events on their remote days if they are able. Attendance is dependent upon an individual's ability to get to/from school. Practices typically begin between 3 and 3:30 p.m. most afternoons.