January 9, 2022
Dear HUUSD Staff, Board, and Community,
The below information is an important message from Superintendent Nease about the next 4-8 weeks of school. Please read it all carefully.
Good morning everyone,
I realize that the district has been sending messages often. Omicron has brought the need for many changes quickly. Today, at the conclusion of the first week back I write to share information about our status as a school community.
Have you ever felt like you are on an amusement park ride and it just doesn’t end, maybe the Round Up or a mega Roller Coaster? Well, the COVID journey has never felt more like that than now. I am keenly aware of the anxiety we all feel, students, staff, parents, administrators, and the larger community. The constantly changing data and guidance can be mind boggling and very difficult to adequately and accurately message to all of you. We are all depleted emotionally and physically from this ride we so want to end. I cannot thank you enough for your patience and calm as we continue to weather this ride together.
I hope you find the information below helpful:
|Non COVID Related||273|
|COVID-19 like symptoms||217|
|COVID Travel Precautions||1|
|Awaiting COVID Test Results||86|
|Positive COVID Test||180|
|Quarantine for Contact Tracing||431|
|Family Quarantine-not required||47|
|Nurse Dismissal: COVID like Symptoms||34|
|Nurse Dismissal: All other reasons||7|
During the first week back, full day STAFF absences across all 7 campuses totaled 140. Nonetheless, all our schools remained open. This is a testimony that highlights the dedication of our staff and administrators, who consistently step up to cover for one another adding to their hours and workload in order to keep all schools open.
When this school year began, we all had high hopes and believed our year would be relatively normal -a year of Recovery and Re Engagement on the academics front. We thought we would carefully assess the learning gaps from the previous year and move students steadily forward on a growth continuum to June. Unfortunately, Delta and Omicron continued to move us back and forth along a continuum of maintenance and survival instead. Our primary goals remain: keep our school community safe and schools open if humanly possible.
We were fortunate to keep all 7 campuses open this week as we watched many schools around the state close. I believe the next 4-8 weeks will be some of the most difficult we have seen since this virus began regarding staff and student attendance. Please consider the following information:
Keeping schools open in the coming weeks may mean a shift from academics where the conditions require. Being in school is the best place for students socially and emotionally. In addition, they can play and be warm, fed, and loved. Parents can continue to go to work. This may mean missing some classes within a day, more study halls, fun projects, games, movies, sledding, recess, whatever it takes. Classes may double up or change locations. Our criteria for closure will shift from whether we can staff our usual schedules, to whether we have enough staff to adequately supervise and manage our students' activities.
The state does not allow remote learning days this year, and they do not count towards mandatory attendance. Students in quarantine are supposed to be treated as if they had a sick day.
As you have heard from the news and in yesterday’s correspondence, significant changes in guidance are expected from the AOE and VDH this coming Monday and at Tuesday’s press conference. Changes are expected to refine quarantine rules, eliminate contact tracing and surveillance testing, and significantly alter Test to Stay protocols. While it is premature for me to worry about these changes, I suspect that parents and staff may be disappointed in them, because we have learned to feel safe and rely on these tools to mitigate illness.
It is important to remember that we are not in an official state of emergency. As such, any guidance we receive is advisory, and should be considered as recommendations. Each district throughout the State will carefully consider the guidance. Our HUUSD team will follow the science, but also make our own changes and adjustments to more closely reflect our needs and current state as represented by our actual data, with input from the larger community. Stay tuned for HUUSD published revised pandemic protocols later in the week.
I am already getting questions about make-up days in June. Last Thursday, superintendents learned that the AOE will have a waiver process wherein under specified circumstances, days may count towards the mandatory attendance of 175 days. One example we were given is, if we open a school with fewer than the required 50% of students present, the day may count. There are rules of course and I have not seen the specifics yet. We are in a good position to weather the attendance requirements. First, knock on wood, we haven’t used a single snow day yet. Second, our HUUSD school schedule includes 178 days - 3 more than what is required. I will not be able to announce our last day in June until the end of April, but presently we are in a good position to end the year as planned.
So, for the remainder of this year, I will need to decide daily whether each school will be opened or closed. This means there may be differences among the HUUSD schools due to staffing. Principals will notify me by 5:30 am if they cannot staff and safely open. My goal will be to get the urgent Swift Reach messages to parents before the buses roll. If we already know a school will need to close the night before we will put out notice then. It is critically important that all staff notify their administrator no later than 5:15 am on any day they will be out.
You should also be aware that we may experience a shortage of bus drivers. If we do, routes may double up or student ride time will be longer. On any given day, a few routes may need to be cancelled altogether. If that happens, parents will receive an emergency message. If a regular route is cancelled, those students will be picked up late by another driver after they complete their initial run. Parents can also transport their students to school. We understand that a cancelled route could prevent some students from attending. If we can staff our schools, they will remain open even with limited busing. We fully understand that all parents may not be able to provide transportation for their students on such short notice. I want to encourage all parents to have a plan in place if their student needs to be home alone or waiting longer at a bus stop, especially given winter weather. We will do everything we can not to cancel a bus route. That said, we are trying to plan for all possibilities.
In closing, know that from the start of this pandemic in 2020, our administrative team built a very systemic model based on distributive leadership, cross training, and delegation of the work. Keeping schools open and everyone safe does not rest with any one individual. Each week we revisit prior decisions and change them where warranted, such as our recent call regarding spectators at athletic events.
The message I most want to convey is “we got this!” The resilience and perseverance I continue to witness daily by our staff and administration are amazing. I am so proud of them. We are a tenacious and competitive bunch when it comes to this pandemic. We deeply care for our students and love them like they are our own, which brings out our Mama and Papa bear sides.
Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have questions or concerns, or just want to share your thoughts.
With warm regards,
Brigid Nease, Superintendent
Our administrative team pushes forward adhering to these tenets:
Humor is excellent medicine for many of us. The staff sent along a few pieces this week shared below. If you can muster a sense of humor during what is a crisis then they may be for you.