August 19, 2020
Dear Parents/Guardians, Staff, and Community Members,
I hope you have all been enjoying this beautiful August weather. This week, we welcome back many of our teachers and staff for orientation and in-service and we are growing ever more excited to see students again. We understand the trepidation families and staff may be feeling as we venture into the unknown together, but we want to reassure you that we are doing everything we can to provide a safe environment in which our staff and students can learn and thrive. In addition, we are happy to report that our revised, FY21 budget passed August 11. Thank you! More on this and our ongoing reopening plans below.
Budget Revote Results
We are thankful that we are entering the new school year with a passed budget for FY21 thanks to the support of our community. We are so grateful for everyone who was able to vote, either in-person or by absentee ballot, and for the community members who provided their feedback throughout the process via our Citizens Budget Advisory Committee, by phone and e-mail, and at our school board meetings over Zoom. We look forward to your continued engagement as we begin our next budget development cycle this fall.
The state released updates to their school reopening document, A Strong and Healthy Start, last week. In addition to this information, our District has created a lengthy document to address SBSD specific reopening protocols ranging from health and safety to access to meals. Our revised District calendar is also included at the end of this document. Families should have received this letter from me Friday that contained information including draft schedules for the elementary, middle, and high schools as well as links to the Vermont Virtual Learning Cooperative (VTVLC)where students can participate in online learning five days per week as well as the State of Vermont Home Study information.
Update on Fall Sports
At the Governor’s press conference August 11,Guidance from the Vermont AOE on Fall Sports was released. Some highlights include the requirement that school-based fall sports programs do not initiate their practice sessions before the school start date of September 8. Also, “facial coverings will be required to be worn by all players, coaches, officials, staff, and spectators at all times, including during active play. An exception is provided for participants in cross country running (both practice sessions and interscholastic meets/competitions) so long as physical distancing is maintained between individuals by using staggered starts or other means.”
Interscholastic games will not be permitted until a decision is made to move Vermont schools to Step III (full time, modified in-person learning). Games and meets may only occur between or involve Vermont-based teams or teams from counties eligible for quarantine-free travel. Guidance was also provided on specific types of sports. You can read more in the document linked above. Guidance for school-based winter sports programs will be published by October 15, 2020.
Nutritional Services, in cooperation with transportation and security will continue to serve meals through August 30th under the nationwide area eligibility waiver from the USDA. Special accommodations will be made for any families that request additional support until school begins September 8th. Please contact Rhonda Ketner, firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-652-7160 for questions/assistance.
In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has extended its waivers on meal pattern flexibility, congregate meals, meal times, and parent and guardian meal pickup through June 30, 2021. This will allow us to continue to operate smoothly in the event of another school closure as well as serve meals in nontraditional areas, such as the classroom. Please see the latest in this Nutritional Services Update.
The need for childcare for our staff and families continues to be at the forefront of my mind. We are working with the State Child Development Division (CDD) to ensure we have adequate space for all that need it. We are also working with several local partners to identify additional childcare options for parents and guardians to consider during this period.
I also received an update this week from Steven Berbeco, Deputy Commissioner of the Child Development Division (CDD):.
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. Find more information: here.
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. Find more information: here.
Also, please find information that has been provided to me by Mike Feitelberg at the Edge. Below is a link to the application form for the program: "Minds & Motion.”
In addition to these weekly communications, please keep an eye on our District website where updates will be posted as soon as they are available. Individual school principals have been doing an amazing job of keeping our families informed as well via their newsletters, e-mails, and social media. Remember, we are all in this together and want what is best for our entire school community.