Thursday March 10, 2022
Dear HUUSD families & staff:
Recent announcements at the federal and state level have identified how lower COVID case counts and trends, and a lower level of strain on the healthcare system, have put Vermont schools in a position to transition to an endemic approach regarding management and mitigation of COVID. Last week, VT Secretary of Education Dan French announced that as of Monday, March 14, guidance on COVID specific to schools will be lifted, with schools operating under the same general guidance offered to all through the Department of Health. With this change, all school-specific COVID-19 guidance, which included everything from masking to processes for schools to notify presumptive close contacts, will be removed. (see the memo outlining this change here). All in the community are expected to follow Vermont Department of Health guidance for testing positive, or if a close contact; we expect anyone experiencing COVID-19 symptoms to stay home and seek testing.
In HUUSD, we are happy to report that we did not experience a COVID surge after the recent school break; our data for staff and students reflects a positive reduction of cases overall. We will be moving to implement a variety of changes in protocols, effective March 14, 2022, in response to these positive trends.
As of Monday, March 14, masks will be optional in HUUSD schools, pk-12, including for school events such as athletics and on school transportation.
Those who want the additional layer of protection that high-quality masks provide should feel free to wear them. We ask families to discuss with your children the choices that are right for your household. Here is a resource, created by some teachers in a neighboring school, to support talking about the different choices individuals might make. School staff cannot be responsible for managing and enforcing students to follow the personal choices made by a family. Families need to be clear with their own children what their masking expectations are.
HUUSD supports personal choice around masking and will work to create an environment where such choice is treated with respect and kindness. We are all one community, but have different experiences, personal circumstances and opinions connected to the pandemic and masks. We will have the daily opportunity to practice support and understanding for individual choices around masks.
Visitors, volunteers, spectators, etc. will not be required to wear masks in HUUSD schools and at HUUSD events.
- Individuals may not require masking of others in a particular setting, except in the following situations:
- Students and staff who become symptomatic at school will be asked to wear a mask while being assessed and prior to going home.
- Individuals identified as close contacts are directed, by the Vermont Department of Health, to wear masks for 10 days after exposure. ( see “What to Do if You’re a close contact”). Should the VDH guidance change, our protocols would reflect any updates to the VDH expectations.
- Individuals who are COVID positive are directed, by the Vermont Department of Health, to wear a mask through day 10 (see “What to Do if You Test Positive”). Should the VDH guidance change, our protocols would reflect any updates to the VDH expectations.
COVID TESTING THROUGH SCHOOLS
- We will continue to provide antigen home test kits to students/staff who may need them for testing post-exposure or for symptomatic students/staff, as long as the state continues to provide these supplies.
- We will continue to offer testing for staff and students who become symptomatic at school with either a rapid antigen or LAMP test. LAMP tests are newly available to our school nurses and are similar to PCR testing but only take 30 minutes to process. Parent consent is still required for these two types of response testing so please reference our testing information page to register your student if you haven’t already done so.
- We will continue to make available for staff (one test kit/staff weekly) home antigen tests kits in accordance with the staff assurance testing program while supplies continue to come from the state.
- The Vermont Agency of Education has indicated that COVID-19 testing programs (response testing and staff assurance testing) will be phased out at some point in favor of students and staff accessing the same testing programs provided to all Vermonters. We will apprise you as we learn of any new developments.
CONTACT TRACING & SCHOOL NOTIFICATIONS OF COVID EXPOSURE
- Beginning March 14, 2022, schools will no longer be responsible for notifying families of potential COVID-19 exposure. Per Vermont Department of Health guidelines, individuals testing positive are asked to notify those with whom they have had close contact.
- The recommended strategy for identifying COVID-19 is to monitor your, and your children’s, health and to test when symptomatic. Students and staff are expected to stay home from school if they have any symptoms of COVID-19.
- HUUSD will maintain a COVID-19 dashboard listing cases of individuals positive with COVID-19 while in school. This dashboard will be updated weekly on Fridays and lists total cases for the year, as well as the week. It can be found on the HUUSD website here.
OTHER SAFETY PROTOCOLS
- Our school staff and students have achieved very high vaccination levels, which we celebrate. School staff who are not vaccinated will no longer be required to provide weekly COVID-19 negative test results.
- As of last month, our schools returned to permitting in person meetings for staff and/or with families. We will no longer be requiring that family members/ volunteers entering our building provide evidence of vaccination status. As is present in most general public settings, our greatest safety measure is that anyone experiencing symptoms stay home and test for COVID. We do ask that visitors entering the building are limited to those who have an educational purpose.
- With the removal of all school-specific COVID guidance, there are no longer any specific restrictions upon activities such as singing, playing instruments, physical education instruction, etc.
WHAT REMAINS THE SAME
- We expect all staff and students to continue to stay home with any COVID related symptoms. Those who are symptomatic should have two negative antigen tests 24 hours apart or a negative PCR or LAMP test prior to returning to school. You must also have significant improvement in symptoms and be fever free for 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medication prior to returning to school.
- We will continue the practice that family drop off and pick up of students occurs outdoors; to minimize exposure, families should not enter the school building without prior approval. School visitors and volunteers can be allowed, with administrative approval, if their visit is essential to educational purposes.
HUUSD will continue to work with community partners, including those in the medical community, to monitor any new public health concerns that may require us to change our current COVID management. We will continue to collect data regarding COVID-19 cases infectious while in school, as well as how student and staff attendance is impacted by COVID-19. We remain ready to shift, as we have done over the past two years, if data indicates that risk levels merit such a change.
HUUSD administrators and school nurses are here to support everyone through this change. Please reach out if you have any questions or particular concerns you would like to discuss.
Brigid Nease, Superintendent of Schools
Allison Conyers, COVID Coordinator
Kaiya Korb, Building Based COVID Coordinator