January 17, 2022
Dear HUUSD families & staff:
The first semester ended this past Friday and there is much to celebrate in the initial half of this school year. When students entered the buildings last fall, we had increased our guidance counselor and interventionist staffing across all buildings to meet the student needs and support “recovery” from the wild ride experienced since March of 2020. We have improved our systems, from implementing a social and emotional skills screening tool for K-12 students to adopting a common tool for tracking student discipline, to better understand the ongoing needs of our students. We have improved our technology resources and systems for supporting those resources. Additionally, our staff continue coordinated professional work, begun last year, to further equity and understand and begin to dismantle racism in our school systems.
In addition to all this, our schools continue to work to make our environment as safe as possible during a pandemic. This past Friday, the state issued new guidance. The omicron variant, with its high level of transmissibility, has brought a few changes to our protocols, as outlined below.
STAY HOME WHEN SICK The greatest preventative measure, which has been in place throughout this pandemic, is that any staff or student experiencing symptoms does not come to school. Given the current prevalence of COVID-19 in our community, we should all presume we are being exposed regularly. If students/staff are home due to illness, they can contact the school to pick up a rapid test kit or seek out a PCR or LAMP test at a community location. Students and staff may return to school if their symptoms have improved, they have been fever free for 24 hours AND they have had 2 negative antigen tests taken 24 hours apart or have received a negative LAMP or PCR test result. Following this guidance is key in reducing spread of the virus.
COVID TESTING RAPID TESTS The state has indicated that we will be receiving sufficient antigen (rapid) tests. Any staff or student who is a suspected close contact, inside or outside of school, can fulfill testing requirements with rapid tests provided through the school. To manage the distribution of these tests, antigen testing kits will be handed out directly, at school, to students who are close contacts. Staff or students needing antigen tests for close contacts outside of the school should contact their school nurse; these test kits will also be distributed through students. Staff may pick up at the nurse’s office. These at home antigens tests will replace our school administered Test to Stay program.
If a person is in need of an antigen kit and is not in school because they are symptomatic or positive, test kits can be picked up at school during regular school hours (7:30 - 2:30 elementary schools, 8:30 - 3:30 middle & high schools). We recommend avoiding drop-off/ pick up times, as those are already busy times in each of our schools. Please call the school or ring the school doorbell to pick up; be prepared to let us know for whom you are picking up a test kit.
RESPONSE TESTING Our nurses will continue in-school response testing for any staff or students who experience symptoms during the school day. A student or staff member can take a rapid antigen test on site. If negative, a PCR test can be collected at school. Alternatively, a rapid antigen kit can be provided to families to test again at home 24 hours later. Any student or staff who is symptomatic will be sent home. Negative test results must be received before student/staff return to school. Individuals must be pre-registered to participate in this program. Directions for signing up can be found here. Preschool families may now sign their child up for response testing by completing this form, which is also available on the HUUSD COVID guidance website. We will be sending this home in hard copy to pk families this week.
Again, students and staff experiencing symptoms and staying home should contact the school nurse to arrange pick up of antigen tests. Two negative antigen tests more than 24 hours apart or a negative PCR test are needed before returning to school. Students and staff should not return to school until symptoms have resolved and they have been fever free for 24 hours without using fever reducing medication.
WEEKLY SURVEILLANCE TESTING The state is no longer sponsoring weekly, large group PCR testing through schools. Instead, resources are being put towards wide disbursal of rapid tests and diagnostic testing for individuals with symptoms. HUUSD, which is dependent upon the testing supplies and logistical support made available through the AOE and VDH, will be following this updated testing plan and discontinue weekly PCR “surveillance” testing.
CONTACT TRACING HUUSD has adopted the AOE recommendation of a modified contact tracing process in recognition of the transmissibility of the omicron variant. In alignment with this recommendation, ALL individuals enrolled in a class where an individual has been present while considered infectious will be notified. Previously, the middle and high school were reviewing seating charts for those seated in close proximity; now all students in that class will be notified. We will continue the process implemented in late December where notification will occur through a text message alert and email with further instructions. These messages need to be reviewed carefully, as instructions for close contacts who are vaccinated and those who are unvaccinated differ. Anyone experiencing symptoms is expected to stay home. Please see the flow chart accompanying this letter for further clarification of current protocols. Close contacts do not need to quarantine as long as they follow the testing expectations outlined in these protocols. (See the flowchart included with this communication.)
HOUSEHOLD CONTACTS A person testing positive should begin to isolate immediately from others in their home. Keep in mind that a person's infectious period begins two days before a positive test if asymptomatic and two days prior to symptoms if symptomatic, it is possible that household contacts have already been exposed. In the last two weeks, our school community has noted an increase in prevalence of cases leading to additional cases within the home. We ask that families consider keeping siblings home while a family member is in isolation.
If persons are identified as a close contact from a household exposure, testing requirements are as follows: Fully vaccinated individuals in the household should test every 3-5 days while their household contact is in isolation and for 5 consecutive days after the household contact ends isolation. Individuals NOT fully vaccinated should test daily while their household contact is in isolation and for 5 consecutive days after the household contact ends isolation. (The isolation period begins the day of the positive test if a person has no symptoms or the day symptoms start if a person is symptomatic).
MASKS Universal masking continues to be another strong COVID mitigation strategy.. The VDH recommends the use of multi-layer masks, such as KN95s. These masks are available and recommended for all staff; we are awaiting the arrival of KN95s for students. These will be disbursed to students as soon as we have them.
UPDATED COVID VACCINATION REQUIREMENTS Anyone other than staff or students entering the building during school hours has been asked to provide evidence of full vaccination. Beginning February 1, 2022, those individuals must be up to date with their COVID vaccination. Up to date means that if an individual received their 2 shot series (Pfizer or Moderna) more than 5 months prior, or their 1 shot series (J&J) more than 2 months prior, they have had a booster. These individuals should plan to present their updated vaccination information to the administrative assistant of the school upon their next visit to the school.
We work to remain nimble to respond to the shifts in this virus, altering our safety protocols if needed to best use resources to curb the spread of COVID-19. Thank you for your patience as we awaited updated guidance from the Vermont Agency of Education. Please know that our team carefully evaluates all information from the Agency of Education and the Vermont Department of Health, as well as our own local data, in making decisions. We are active in providing feedback and pressing clarifying questions to the AOE and VDH. We continue to strive to make decisions that we believe will best support the wellbeing of the HUUSD community.
Allison Conyers, HUUSD COVID coordinator
Kaiya Korb, HUUSD building based COVID administrator
Brigid Nease, HUUSD Superintendent of Schools
How to use Antigen tests:
When should my child take their test?
|Vaccinated close contact||
Test on Days 4 and 5. Allow 24 hours between tests.
Day 0 is the last day your child was around the person who tested positive.
|Unvaccinated close contact||Test for 5 consecutive days after receiving your test kits. Allow 24 hours between tests.Positive case|
|Positive case||Test on Day 4 and Day 5. Day 0 is the day you tested positive if you had no symptoms, or the first day you started to have symptoms of COVID-19.|
My child had a negative test result; now what?
|Close contact||Complete the required number of tests. Your child may continue to attend school as long as they continue to test negative. You do not need to submit test results to your school. Please report your test results to the Health Department.|
Your child may return to school on Day 6 if tests on Day 4 and 5 are negative, their COVID-19 symptoms are improving, and they have been fever free for 24 hours. Please report your test results to the Health Department.
If either test is positive, you may pick up additional antigen tests from school and continue testing. You may return to school after two consecutive negative antigen tests. If you continue testing and are positive on Day 8, stop testing and continue to isolate until Day 10. You may return to school on Day 11.
What do I do if my child tests positive?
If either of your child’s tests come back positive, your child should continue to stay home. If you test during school hours, call your school nurse. If you test outside school hours, complete the HUUSD positive case reporting form.