Dear HUUSD Community,
We wanted to share with you an update the Superintendent just shared with HUUSD staff.
I am writing today with a few updates and pieces of information. I sure hope you and your families are well. Summer days will soon transition into fall and school will begin. Isn't this just the craziest of times? Everyday we are challenged with new and changing information that informs our thinking and changes our decisions. Please remember that on Thursday, I will be meeting with our HUEA team from 10:00-12:00 and any of you who can join in our all HUUSD Staff Meeting from 2:30-4:30. I wanted to provide some information and some of my best thinking prior to both meetings. Here is where things stand.
Schools will open on Sept. 8th. HUUSD is expected to open in our Pre K-12 4-1 model, where students will be in person 1 day each week ( broken into groups A and B) with staff in the buildings on Tues. and Thurs. This will give us that much needed opportunity to "toe dip" into the "COVID New School Model", allowing for adapting for students and staff while making adjustments based on our real experiences.
Yesterday, I sent you the newly revised documents from the AOE - Revised Opening Guidance August 2020 and Athletics: Reopening 2020. These documents are full of information. There are many significant changes that will impact and change how we open schools. The allowable leave categories are also significantly changed. I encourage you all to fully read these documents.
We need you to complete the latest survey sent by Michelle Baker this week asking if you believe you will be applying for leave if we move to either a 5 or 4 day in person model. If after reading the revised guidance or this update you need to submit a change, please contact [email protected]. This information is essential to our opening plan so that we can assure adequate staffing and hire substitutes where necessary.
Here is a video from the Champlain Valley (CVU) district that has gone viral that I wanted to share. All of our admin team have watched it. It clarifies a lot of the medical information and informs social distancing. HERE
I have received many, many messages today asking specific questions about the newly revised guidance, and when and whether we will add more in person days. All I can say to any of you at this point is what I believe will likely happen. I could be wrong and I suppose everything is subject to change, but given everything I read in the new guidance, what will likely occur around the state, and what will likely be the expectations in our community, we will likely move to 5 days of in person instruction in grades PreK-4 without students separated into groups A and B (attempting to provide only single class groups), and a Hybrid in grades 5-12 of 2 full days in person for students and 4 for staff (Mon/Tues for A, all remote W, and Thurs/Fri for B) two weeks after the start of school (Sept. 22), if the Governor and Dept. of Health determine Vermont schools will open at Step III. The change in our plan if we open at Step III results from several pieces of the new guidance, with the most important alterations to the 3-6 foot distancing rule for students 10 years and younger. We are still working to determine if this is possible in every classroom in every building. Parents will be surveyed again next week about a final decision.
Our admin team will start to unpack this new information Monday and Tuesday next week. You can expect changes ahead. Our main goal will need to be having three models in place for the school year - Step I Total Remote, Step II Hybrid, or Step III mostly In Person instruction. If we begin Step III after the first two weeks of school, it is not likely that HUUSD will be able to offer a totally remote learning option for families when we are in Step III. All our staff will be working full time serving all students in the Step III model. The district could not possibly hire another staff to serve students totally remotely in all Pre K -12 grades and subject areas. I believe those parents will need to apply for home study with the state. We are continuing to study this.
I have received a number of questions about child care. We have not yet fully determined if our buildings can be utilized for child care under Step III due to the disinfecting requirements.
Here is some important information from the State Child Development Division about child care for families with school-aged children:
Families can access child care through the state-wide child care referral network. Child Care Referral Specialists at statewide Community Child Care Support Agencies can match families with available child care options, including for school-aged children. There is no charge for this service, and it is available to all Vermonters. For more information: https://dcf.vermont.gov/cdd/cccsa
Families can receive financial support for child care by talking with an eligibility specialist. The Child Care Financial Assistance Program helps families pay for child care. Families with a household of four people can make up to $77,256 per year and qualify for help. Eligibility specialists maintain an ongoing connection with families who receive this benefit and help them as their needs change. For more information: https://dcf.vermont.gov/benefits/ccfap
School leadership should also be aware of this information:
CDD is working to maximize child care options as needed. We are collaborating with state and community partners, legislators, and school leaders to find and implement positive solutions for school-aged child care during remote learning days.
Communication about school facility operations is key to co-located child care programs. Child care programs that utilize school facility spaces that may or may not be administered by the school itself will benefit from knowing whether they can use the school facility so they can plan accordingly. Communication about school facility operations will be a key component in helping these programs plan and communicate with the families they serve.
If approached with offers for vacant space for child care programs, please refer property owners to CDD. Our licensing team will rapidly vet these opportunities from a health and safety perspective and make the connection between programs and approved locations. The best way for property owners to get in touch with CDD is: (802) 241-0837 or [email protected].
CDD licensing staff are available for any and all questions related to regulated care and supervision of children. Our staff are available to discuss any questions related to child care programming, licensing, regulations, and more. Please contact us with any questions related to licensing: (802) 241-0837 or [email protected].
Our hiring is not yet complete. We are still in need of school nurses (2), custodians (5) (both have increased in number since last year due to COVID) and bus monitors. Depending on where we end up with approved leaves, we may begin advertising for teachers and support staff next week. Each needs to be reviewed individually. Presently, we have approximately 22 leave requests ( 2 support staff and 20 teachers) with only 150 replies. Our substitute list is confirmed for about 21% of our usual list.
I hope this information can inform our conversations tomorrow and better prepare us for our next Community Forum Mon. 8/17 at 6:30 and School Board Meeting Wed. 8/19 at 6:00. Uncertainty is so difficult. I know. We are all in this together. I have no doubt our plans will come to fruition and be successful because we will carry each other as needed along the journey. This is a marathon not a sprint. We got this HUUSD!
"Life is like a camera. Focus on what's important. Capture the good times. Develop from the negatives. And, if things don't work out take another shot."