03/03/20 Coronavirus Message from Superintendent Nease

Dear HUUSD Families, 

As you are likely aware, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is providing regular updates on the current status of the coronavirus (COVID-19), and what steps should be taken moving forward. Among the messages the CDC shared was a warning that the coronavirus is extremely likely to spread in communities across the U.S. and that individuals, schools, and businesses should be taking steps to not only prevent, but also prepare for the spread of the virus. 

We recognize that this message has created widespread concern across schools. The idea of a widespread virus is understandably a scary one for all our schools, and larger community. I wanted to take this opportunity to share some information that may be helpful as you consider your own next steps. 

The HUUSD administration has been keeping up to date during this vacation break. All nurses and several administrators will meet with me tomorrow upon our return to school to further refine the specifics of our management plan for COVID -19. Here are some of our school district’s first steps to prevent the spread of illness across our campuses, and our plan for the possible spread of the coronavirus in our community. 

Initial message to parents:

Dear HUUSD Staff and Families-

We would like to provide you with three information sources about coronavirus. Our HUUSD schools will continue to follow the ongoing guidance being provided by the Vermont Agency of Education and Vermont Department of Health. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact your school nurse and/or building principal. 

Best Regards,

The HUUSD Administration

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/preparing-individuals-communities.html

https://education.vermont.gov/sites/aoe/files/documents/edu-memo-french-covid19-guidance.pdf

https://vermont.us20.list-manage.com/track/click?u=d01e01e425fa1e66c26167761&id=df15f041b2&e=13b7695c9b

Upon return to school following February break, we will :

  • Contact all families and staff today to determine and make a list of anyone who traveled overseas and where within the last month- (If you traveled and have NOT yet sent an email indicating your travel, please complete this Google form. If you already sent an email, do NOT complete the Google form. We already have your information.)

  • Continue enforcement of basic hygiene protocols - That means making sure that everyone is washing their hands, covering their coughs and sneezes, and staying home if they notice symptoms.

  • Implement an even stronger disinfecting protocol - That means wiping down surfaces more often by maintenance staff and all other individuals.  

  • Check the World Health Organization CDC websites daily for updates - Resources include a centralized coronavirus page and an interactive map tracking its spread.  

  • Begin thinking through critical questions that may impact our community’s operations - Our  coordinated COVID-19  team will answer specific questions as they arise. Tomorrow, we will determine protocols for quarantine; what the school district can and should do. Any students attending who present with symptoms will be isolated to the greatest degree possible and sent home.

  • Share a “heads-up” email message with families regularly about what we’re doing to prevent and prepare as the situation unfolds.

  • Develop a document articulating our future plans to ensure everyone is on the same page - If and when the situation does escalate, we will be able to put our plans into action quickly.

We’ve received one specific question quite a bit from schools over the past 24 hours that I wanted to address directly:

Should we purchase N95 masks for all staff and students on our campuses?

We know that many of you may be thinking about N95 masks or similar face coverage. The district will not be providing masks to all students based on the guidance we have received, which is masks are not a particularly effective strategy for protecting individuals from contracting the coronavirus. Instead, follow general health and wellness best practices, with a particular focus on thorough hand washing. You can find the CDC page on Coronavirus Prevention & Treatment strategies here. However, if you send your student to school with a mask they will be permitted to wear it. 

As the CDC emphasized, there is not currently a coronavirus pandemic in the United States. A pandemic occurs when a disease is spreading from a variety of sources across a large region, and the number of cases across the US is still small. However, given how quickly the global situation is evolving, we are monitoring new developments and will continue to reevaluate our steps and actions daily. 

In the meantime,the most effective way to stay healthy and minimize the spread of infectious disease is to follow basic health best practices like: 

  • Enforcing great hygiene, like washing hands thoroughly and covering up coughs/sneezes

  • Asking all faculty, staff, and students who are feeling ill to stay home until they recover.

Our team is prepared to alter our procedures and planning should the situation change. We are also thinking ahead regarding the impact spring travel, upcoming school trips, and other non-typical school activities will have in the context of the coronavirus. We will communicate any changes affirmatively when the time is appropriate. 

It is important to remember that handling the spread of a serious contagion like the coronavirus is primarily a task for public health agencies. Any directives from the World Health Organization, CDC, or local governmental organizations should be followed. 

In times like this, we are particularly grateful for the strength and togetherness of this community. Please continue to look for further communications from us on this matter.

Sincerely,

Brigid Nease

Superintendent of Schools

Additional Resources:

Barre Vermont Department of Health

5 Perry St Ste 250

Barre, VT 05641-4286

Phone: (802) 476-0161

You can find the CDC page on Coronavirus Prevention & Treatment strategies here.

In what situation would we decide to cancel school?

Our local department of health will issue directives if it becomes necessary to close schools. For help contacting them, use this resource. Otherwise, we will continue to use the protocols and common sense responses that are used to navigate instances of student or staff illness.  

HUUSD does not have the capacity to provide virtual learning platforms. While these aren’t a perfect solution, especially for younger students, they can be a valuable resource if regular schooling is interrupted for any reason. However, because we haven’t already built it, it’s unlikely that we'll be able to do it now. Our team will be studying what is possible.

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