Maintaining a Safe, Smart Start

As we move into the month of October, the Franklin West Supervisory Union Leadership Team continues to assess our readiness toward increasing in-person instruction for elementary age students.  Based on my ongoing conversations with school board members, faculty, staff, parents, and students to gain perspective on increasing our school days, I believe it is of utmost importance to increase in-person learning while still maintaining the goals we established for a safe, smart start for all stakeholders.  The revisions to the health and safety guidance, the Secretary of Education’s announcement of a shift to Step Three for Vermont schools, coupled with scientific data reported on low transmission rates among younger children are critical factors in our decision making.  From this, we believe we can return our BFA Fairfax Elementary, Georgia Elementary, and Fletcher Elementary students back to school for four days of in-person instruction on October 26th. All elementary students currently being served by the hybrid instructional model will receive in person learning on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday beginning October 26th.  The hybrid instructional model will not be an option for elementary students after October 26th.  Wednesday will remain a remote learning day for all FWSU students, which will allow for continued cleaning protocols, teacher planning, office hours for students, and team collaboration time. 

Following the latest guidance, the Champlain Valley Regional Superintendents’ Association determined benchmarks that need to be in place for elementary students to increase in person instruction are as follows:  

  • Sufficient staffing levels.
  • No or low COVID activity in our community.
  • Collaboration with the Department of Health, using their algorithms to support response, actions, and decisions.
  • Routines are efficient, assessed, and adjusted to meet the needs in compliance with the guidance from the Department of Health and the Agency of Education.

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

As we begin to prepare for an important change pivoting to more in-person instruction, please be cognizant of the fact that within our safe, smart start timeline, we have just completed the fourth week of school.  In order to maintain health and safety protocols, principals, faculty, and staff will be making additional adjustments to prepare to welcome back all of the elementary students four days a week.  Wearing face coverings and social distancing of three to six feet as feasible will remain in place.   While in school, we will continue to work on educating our students on the importance of physical distancing as well as verbally reminding them to “keep their distance” for the health and safety of all. Anything that you can do at home to reinforce the need for physical distancing and mask-wearing would be appreciated.  

Additionally I would be remiss if I did not mention that conversations with our leadership team include the future possibility of increasing in-person learning for middle and high school students as well.  We will continue to look at any possible adjustments or accommodations that can be made for those grade levels,  both individually and collectively, as we continue to move forward with our thinking. In the meantime we will continue to grow and work to improve the hybrid instructional model with our secondary students. While observing students at all levels I continue to be impressed with the resilience and drive of our students.  I believe that the positive attributes of perseverance and determination are a credit to the students, themselves, as well as parents, faculty, staff, and our supportive community.

The plan is subject to change in-between now and October the 26th, if we do not meet the benchmarks I mentioned above.  Stay safe and stay well.  Thank you for sending us the very best students in the State of Vermont. 

James Tager is the Superintendent at Franklin West Supervisory Union. He is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him on Twitter @jrtager

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