November 29, 2020
Dear Springfield School District families,
I hope that the break has been a positive one for your family. I know at the McLaughlin household that it was strange to not join the extended family for our traditional meal. The four of us worked together to create a smaller Thanksgiving meal, and we video-chatted with family members. We made the best of it, but we look forward to getting back to normal next year.
I try to avoid sending out school messages on Sundays, but I feel like there is enough going on to warrant an update. In particular, I want to make sure that I gave you the most current information on the COVID concern we experienced just before the break, changes to our student “entrance tickets,” and the final days of your chance to indicate your instructional model preference for your student.
Tuesday’s COVID Concern
On Monday night, I was notified that a member of our school community had tested positive for COVID-19. That night and into the next morning we took steps to identify and notify all other members of our school community who may have had close contact with the potential positive. We advised those close contacts that they should quarantine. We took the step of closing our central office Tuesday so that we could continue working with the Vermont Department of Health to complete contact tracing and follow the cleaning guidance.
As I was preparing to send out a letter to all of you informing you of a positive case, I received word from the Department of Health that the test results were invalid. They recommended that the person be retested to confirm the results. Happily, the notification ended up coming back quickly and the results were negative. On Thanksgiving morning, we were able to notify the close contacts that they did not need to quarantine. It made for a nice Thanksgiving gift.
While ultimately the event did not come with an actual positive case, it was a good test of our systems. We followed our protocols. While we identified some problems in some of our email lists, communication flowed reasonably well. Everyone was kind and thoughtful. I just want to repeat that you would expect a similar response if we had a positive test connected to one of our schools.
Adjustments to Student Entry Tickets
As we work to comply with the Governor’s newest addendum to his executive order, the district will be adjusting our student entrance tickets. First, we are modifying the travel question. The new travel question will no longer ask about yellow and red counties. Instead, the new question will ask students if they have traveled outside Vermont. Second, we have added a question about multi-household gatherings. The new question will read, “Have you participated in a multi-household gathering in the last 7 days?” Students who answer yes to either of these questions will need to quarantine prior to returning to in-person instruction. Similar changes are being made to staff screening tickets.
Just a reminder, “essential” travel outside of Vermont does not require quarantine. Essential travel reasons include the following:
- Personal safety
- Medical care
- Shared parental custody
- Picking up food, beverage, or medicine
- Attend school
The new student tickets can be accessed via this link. I am also posting it to the district website and attaching a copy to the email I am sending to all families.
“Winter Choice” Survey
I sent out a Google survey to all families earlier this week. It asks families for their preference of instructional models for each student in their household. The timely completion of these surveys is crucial to helping us plan for any January switches in models. It is important to note that these surveys are a bit different than the ones completed by families in the fall. In the fall, the district had already determined the two options that we would offer. Families were given the choice of a two-day hybrid or remote.
This time things are a little different. In grades 6-12, we are still offering the original two options. At grades K-5, we are exploring the possibility of moving from six feet of social distancing to the state’s three feet standard for lower grades. This could allow us to bring in more students for in-person instruction. As a result, K-5 families are given a third option of 4 days in-person. Your voice will be important because I do not think we could pull off three models simultaneously. It would be too difficult to staff and too difficult to schedule. Therefore, we will look carefully at family requests and use the next month to try to redesign while balancing safety and a desire for more in-person opportunities for students.
As of earlier this morning, we have responses for about half of our students. Please do your best to complete today. If you need to reach out to your school tomorrow for additional information, please do so and submit your response prior to the start of school Tuesday.
One final note of possible model changes. Any consideration of a possible switch will always be connected to an on-going tracking of the coronavirus and infection rates in our community. Safety will trump other considerations.
Thank You All
Finally, I just want to thank you for your efforts to this point and ask you to keep strong. These last nine months have been a trying one for our entire school community. Our staff and families continue to push through so many challenges. With so much time having passed, we all can start to feel a bit of COVID-fatigue. I encourage you all to be diligent. For the sake of our students, our staff, and the community, please continue to take the steps necessary to help us safely keep our schools open for our students.
Hang in there. You’re doing great.
Dr. Zach McLaughlin
Superintendent of Schools