Superintendent’s update

Superintendent’s update

November 30

Please read the following Remote Learning update here:  Covid Update

November 20

Dear OSSD Community:

After much discussion, the Board unanimously voted to have the schools remain in remote session following the Thanksgiving break until such time as conditions in our community allow for a safe return.  For me this means when we are confident that all individuals with COVID-19 and all their close contacts have been identified and are in quarantine so that we do not risk further contamination in our schools.

Since this current event started on Sunday, we are still waiting on over twenty test results.  Once those come in, we will have to contact trace any that are positive.  It is possible that this process will last through two or three incubation cycles.  Further, every day since Sunday, we have been notified of new cases, unrelated to our current clusters that need to be investigated.

This current event did not start in the schools, it began in the community due to a number of social gatherings.  People at those gatherings were exposed and then carried that exposure into our schools –with the highest concentration being in our three elementary schools.  At current count, closing the district when we did kept eight eventually positive individuals from attending our schools while they were in their infectious periods.  This number will likely change as the testing results come in.

One of our COVID coordinators who spoke last night relayed to the community the attitude of about 1/3 of the families the district communicated with as part of contact tracing: they simply did not care.  Many expressed very clearly their resistance to quarantine and some explicitly stated they would be non-compliant, including some who had already tested positive.  This does not bode well for what our communities may face over the next few months.

I commend the 60-70% of the community that are taking the guidance seriously and in doing so helping us keep the schools open as much as we can.  We need the other 30-40% to come around as well, because our having to go into remote session was preventable.  If we all work together, if we follow the guidance, and if we quarantine when we must, we could even return to full in person instruction despite what may be happening in the greater world outside.

Our goal is to return to hybrid session as soon as it is safe to do so and move eventually to full in person instruction for all students, but we need everyone’s help if we are to get there.  We do not take going into remote session lightly – it is a last resort when all else fails because we know the impact it has on working families, especially those who may not have access to childcare.

I need every family and community member to think about the Thanksgiving holiday.
Are you planning to travel, especially out of state?
Are you planning on have folks visit?
Are you planning on hosting or attending social gatherings that include people beyond your immediate household?

If so, you may be delaying our ability to exit remote session.

I do wish each and every one the best holiday possible under these conditions and I for one give thanks that we still have time to turn this around.

November 17

We wanted to send out a quick update as there were a number of developments today.  We are currently following five different groups of individuals; four of the groups have had members test positive for COVID-19.  Each group appears to have come into contact with a different source of the virus and the original contact in each case appears to have occurred in the greater community.  Members of each group are also part of the school district; taken together, they touch on each of our schools.

We are currently awaiting the testing results on a large number of folks; two tests did come back this morning: one positive and one negative.  Our local team is tracking the test results as they come in and continues to contact trace as necessary.  Depending upon where the testing was done, the wait time for results in anywhere from 24 hours to seven days.  We will not have a full picture of the expanse of our current cases until the testing and contact tracing is complete.  At this time, there are approximately twenty-four individuals in our school community in quarantine, most of which are awaiting test results.

November 16

After meeting with our local response team this afternoon and reviewing our contact tracing information, we have decided to stay in remote session for the remainder of this week.  At present time there is/are:
One reported positive case so far who was in RUHS on one day during their infectious period.

A dozen individuals who have been quarantined and who are awaiting test results.  Should any of those test results come back positive, we will have to resume contact tracing based on the potential new exposures.
The district has communicated with all individuals identified as a close contacts; if you have not received a call, it is because you were not identified as a close contact.  Should any of our folks currently awaiting test results show positive, we will notify the community and start a new round of contact tracing.

Our intent is to resume hybrid learning following the Thanksgiving break.  I will apologize in advance, but I need to be critical for a moment: most of what is happening right now was preventable.  As Dr. Levine has stated, much of the current spread around the State is due to gatherings and folks not taking quarantine seriously.  The ability of our district to maintain hybrid learning and to someday return to full in-person learning is in the hands of our communities.  Everyone needs to take the protocols and precautions seriously; if not, expect to spend a significant amount of time learning remotely.

Food Distribution
With schools in our district going fully remote this week, the Food Service Program is preparing and providing meals for drive through pick up on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday; this is open to everyone 18 and under.  To try to accommodate family schedules, pick up on these days will run from 3-5 PM at the Randolph Union High School parking lot. There will be orange cones to identify the curb-site location.  Please use the link below to sign up for this service as this helps us determine the number of meals toprepare (copy and paste the link into your browser if needed).

Food Service Pre Order Form

November 12:

As many of you are probably aware, the Coronavirus is advancing in many states including ours.  On Tuesday (November 10th) the State of Vermont suspended all leisure travel – any out of state travel is considered visiting a hot zone.  If you leave the state for any non-essential travel, you must quarantine.  If anyone visits you from a state other than Vermont, they must quarantine.  Quarantine is fourteen (14) days, or seven (7) days followed by a negative COVID test before returning to work, school, or activities outside the home.

How well our school community navigates this crisis depends on all our actions.  The personal choices each of us makes will determine our overall outcome; those choices affect not just ourselves, but everyone we may come into contact with.  Right now, based on what is unfolding before us, it is clear that collectively we can do better.  Please wear your masks when appropriate, restrict travel to what is essential, pay close attention to hand hygiene, regularly disinfect high touch surfaces, quarantine if you traveled out of state, and if there is any question at all about symptoms – please stay home.

Our school nurses are here to help, do not be afraid to reach out if you have any questions at all.  The Vermont Department of Health website is updated regularly and is a wonderful source of information on COVID-19: covid-19

November 3:

As we enter a new round of rising caseloads in terms of COVID-19, I wanted to pass along two links that were sent my way that deserve a wider audience and which can provide important information to families.
The first is a video message from Gifford’s Chief Medical Officer on where we stand, current concerns, and what the near future may hold.

Gifford Video

The second is link sent to the district by a wonderful retired local physician that contains ideas for families coping through the COVID pandemic.

UVM Health Link

Please pass them along to others.

October 30:

I wanted to send a final update before heading into the weekend. 
First, I want to thank the faculty and staff for working together to allow for smooth transitions, both into remote session and then back to the hybrid modality as we acted to manage the positive cases in the district that appeared last week.  The staff have worked diligently through this pandemic to keep the district functioning; speaking on behalf of the district, you have my warmest gratitude for all you do and all you have done.

Second, I want to report that we have had a third identified case.  A person who had contact with our primary case, who has been out the district since that time, has now tested positive.  Since the protocols were followed, and they have not been in the district, there is no impact on our operations going forward and we remain cleared to operate by the Department of Health.  We would all be remiss if we did not collectively hold our highest hopes for the uneventful and speedy recoveries of those who have contracted the Coronavirus.

Third, over the course of the past week, I’ve received a number of communications from concerned community and staff members about what they are seeing posted on local social media: party plans and travel plans for this Halloween weekend that violate current safety guidance and mandates.  At a time when so many people are working so hard to keep things up and running for the good of all, I am disheartened by this.  We truly do not want to 1) go back to a state of fully remote learning, or 2) be constantly transitioning between hybrid and fully remote learning as we respond to outbreaks in the district.  We also do want to return to full-in person instruction as soon as conditions warrant.  To get to a better place, means that community members must to do their part as best they can by following the health guidance and mandates; in that way, you can help us as a district get to where we all want to be while honoring the work and sacrifice of the faculty and staff who are striving to keep the schools running in the most uncertain of times.

I ask each parent and member of the community to take twenty-seconds to do a gut check tonight, reflecton your plans for this Halloween weekend, and decide if they are in line with keeping folks healthy and safe.  Those decisions this weekend, and on every vacation and holiday over the next few months, will control what learning modality the district is able to operate under.