About Franklin West SU

School District in Fairfax, Fletcher, Georgia, VT. Apple Distinguished Program. League of Innovative Schools. "A belief in what is possible."

FWSU Continuity of Learning Information

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March 27, 2020

Dear FWSU Families,

As you learned last evening, Governor Scott has closed schools to in-person instruction through the end of the school 2019-2020 school year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. While we are disappointed that we will not be connecting in person and on campus, we will continue to work closely with you to provide the safest, best education for our students. Thank you for everything you are doing during these challenging times! 

On March 23 our schools began their remote learning as part of our Continuity of Education Plan (Maintenance) for our students. This current plan is intended to address maintaining connection and engagement through various enrichment opportunities at each grade level to make sure students still feel connected to a sense of school community. This phase will continue through April 13, as we work with the Agency of Education to transition to the Continuation of Learning Plan.

The Continuity of Learning Plan will be a new phase of partnering with you to continue educating students remotely, and it will continue through the end of the school year. Information will be shared with students and families as we receive planning guidance from the Vermont Agency of Education. 

As always, the health, safety, and well-being of our students are our first priorities. We will continually work to improve our meal delivery system and provide childcare for essential workers. Our educators will continue to refine our systems to support learners who had previously been receiving services while school was open. 

As noted, we continue to receive ongoing guidance from the Vermont Agency of Education necessitating updates to families. This letter, along with other resources for families, including health information on COVID-19, lunch information, and childcare for essential workers are located on the FWSU and school websites under the heading “COVID-19.”  This site will provide you with access to the most up-to-date information. 

During our current phase, we’d appreciate it if you took a couple minutes to complete this brief survey, and additionally you may receive a phone call survey as well. This information is critical in helping us design the most effective and impactful learning experience.

Thank you again for all you’ve done through these challenging times. We miss the students, and we recognize the struggle this has been and will be moving forward. We appreciate your partnership in this work, and we remain available to support you. 

Sincerely,

Donald S. Van Nostrand
Interim Superintendent

Governor Phil Scott Dismisses Schools For In-Person Instruction for Remainder of 2019-2020 School Year

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Good evening. This evening Governor Scott announced that Vermont schools will remain closed for in-person instruction for the remainder of the school year as a result of the COVID-19 virus. While we are disappointed that we will not be connecting in person and on campus, we will continue to work closely with you to provide the safest, best education for our students. Our meal program and remote learning will continue for the remainder of the year. We will provide more information over the next few days as we gain direction from the Agency of Education. As we continue to navigate this unprecedented event, rest assured that we are thinking about all of you as we work through the many decisions that need to be made. Thank you.

Montpelier, Vt. – Governor Phil Scott today directed schools to remain dismissed through the end of the 2019-2020 school year. Districts will close schools for in-person instruction and be required to implement continuity of learning plans for remote learning. This extends the Governor’s previous directive dismissing PreK-12 schools from March 18 to April 6. 

This decision was made in consultation with the Vermont Department of Health and the Agency of Education in the continued effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. To minimize disruption to students’ learning, the Governor’s order directs school districts to come up with plans for distance learning by April 13. 

“The education of our students and the bonding and learning experiences they have at schools are tremendously important, so I fully appreciate the impact and difficulty of this decision,” said Governor Phil Scott. “I also recognize it will be challenging for some schools to implement remote learning through the end of the year. But I’m encouraged by the creativity I’ve seen from administrators, educators and parents already, which is why I know, together, they can rise to the occasion.”

Governor Scott also noted that some school districts have also set up creative and critically needed programs to offer onsite care for their students whose parents are working on the frontlines in this response. “These educators and staff who are finding ways to support these families have been critical to our COVID-19 response efforts and I am so proud and appreciative of their hard work, creative can-do attitude and their willingness to step up in this moment of service. These educators, and the staff supporting them, represent the very best of our public education system.” 

The Agency of Education will provide technical guidance to districts on how to implement continuity of learning plans by the end of the week, specifically looking to address challenges around equitable access to learning opportunities, Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) for students with disabilities, continuation of school meals, and school attendance and school calendar requirements. 

The Department for Children and Families will also provide updated reimbursement provisions for providers who are not currently offering services and for providers who are delivering child care through this health crisis. 

Download the Press Release here.

Read the full directive here:  https://governor.vermont.gov/content/directive-5-continuity-learning-planning-pursuant-eo-01-20

For the latest information and guidance relating to Vermont’s COVID-19 response, visit www.healthvermont.gov/covid19.

Requesting Childcare for Essential Persons

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Per the Gubernatorial Directive issued by Governor Scott, childcare is to be provided to families with persons working in a field included on the Essential Persons List for COVID-19 Response. If you are employed in one of these fields, please complete this webform, which collects information to connect the families of essential workers with child care in schools and licensed child care programs that are operating to provide services now through April 6, 2020. Families can also call 2-1-1 ext. 6 or 1-877-705-9008 to speak to a childcare referral specialist. 

Essential Persons List for COVID-19 Response:
https://vem.vermont.gov/sites/demhs/files/Essential%20Persons_03182020.pdf

Webform to Request Child Care for Essential Workers:
https://webportalapp.com/webform/essentialworkers

Letter to FWSU Families – March 17, 2020

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Dear Families:

Thank you for your patience and understanding as we continue to work through the complexities associated with COVID-19 and dismissing school for students. The next three days – Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday – are a transitional period. Be on the lookout for additional information.  

As a reminder, schools are closed to students and families beginning tomorrow, March 18. This will last at least until April 6, and possibly longer. I will continue to send regular communication over the next couple weeks, and you will also hear from teachers and administrators.

Here are a few things to consider over the next few weeks:

  • Remote learning, particularly in rural areas and where social distancing restricts student interactions, can feel isolating for children. If you have the resources, participate in FaceTime or Skype calls or send audio messages with friends and classmates.
  • We are not “shutting the doors” to our families. While schools won’t have staff there all the time, voicemail and email will be monitored, so feel free to contact your teacher or the school with questions. 
  • Remote learning is unique, and sometimes difficult. The key is active participation. Putting routines and structures into place helps children stay focused as they work through activities.
  • FWSU is continuing to organize and design a process for effective and efficient food service during his dismissal period. Look out for additional information.   
  • Should your family face economic hardship as a result of COVID-19 you may submit a new free and reduced meal application. Families may apply for school meals at any point in the school year based on their most current income. Applications can be found on the FWSU website or by calling the school.
  • If you need to pick up student items or materials please contact the school first to arrange an appropriate time to do so.
  • FWSU administrators and educators are working together to develop learning plans for all K-12 students using a variety of methods to ensure learning access for all students during school closure. Parents will receive regular communications about remote learning expectations for their child.
  • Continue following recommended guidelines for preventing germs, including:
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

Your school’s administrators, teachers, and staff have been working hard behind the scenes to prepare learning opportunities for students over the next couple of weeks. Preparing for remote learning is challenging, and I am proud of the work your school’s educators have been doing! 

Finally, I thank each of you – the parents, guardians, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends – for all you have done to support this process and for all you’ll be doing in the next few weeks or longer. 

Sincerely,

Donald S. Van Nostrand
Interim Superintendent

Letter to Families Re: Governor’s School Closing Declaration – March 15, 2020

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Dear FWSU Families:

We find ourselves in a rapidly changing, uncharted situation due to COVID-19. We are grateful for the guidance and support that we have received from the Vermont Department of Health, the Vermont Agency of Education, and the Governor’s Office.

On March 15 at 3:20 p.m., Governor Scott announced that statewide school closure will occur no later than Wednesday, March 18, 2020. The purpose of this message is to provide you an update of the actions the FWSU will take as it relates to Governor Scott’s School Closure announcement.

First and foremost, student attendance at school on Monday and Tuesday is a family decision. For these two days, FWSU attendance policies and procedures will be waived, and no student will be penalized for not attending. As always, if your student or a family member is sick, we encourage you to keep your student home.

The FWSU leadership teams will be working with our employees to plan for the support of our students and families during the closure of school. To be clear, our primary areas of focus include the well-being of our students, families, and employees. The plan that we are developing will strive to encompass all of the components that Governor Scott has referenced in his statement/press conference.

Thank you for your patience and flexibility as we move forward. You can expect regular communication from our district so that we are keeping you informed. We are doing all we can to make sure these priorities are taken care of to the best of our abilities.

Sincerely,

Donald S. Van Nostrand
Interim Superintendent

FWSU COVID-19 Update

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Dear Parents and Guardians,

This morning, superintendents from Addison, Chittenden, Franklin, and Grand Isle County participated in a meeting with Dr. Mark Levine, the Commissioner of Health from the Vermont Department of Health and Vermont’s Education Secretary, Dan French. We learned that Governor Scott will be holding an important press conference at 5:30 pm today that should provide new and specific information for all Vermonters to follow.  We anticipate that the guidance will include broad-based health recommendations, information on potential school closure and/or dismissal, the role of schools in mitigating COVID-19, updated travel recommendations, and what individuals can do to keep safe including social distancing. Once the Governor has provided direction, our district leadership will determine the next steps for our schools and we will be back in touch with families and staff as quickly as we can.

Sincerely,

Don S. Van Nostrand

Donald Van Nostrand is the Interim Superintendent of Schools at Franklin West Supervisory Union. He is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him on Twitter at @dsvannostrand

The FWSU Story: BFA Elementary Students Spend Time With Therapy Dog, Jazz

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Earlier this fall, I was contacted by a community member who was interested in spending some time in our elementary school with her therapy dog, Jazz. Jazz is a black Labrador Retriever that has been certified as a therapy dog through Therapy Dogs of Vermont. I was immediately intrigued by this opportunity, not only as a dog lover, but as a school administrator trying to integrate effective ways to support all students.

“I like reading to Jazz because it is fun.”

After an initial inquiry, I quickly received commitments from ten teachers that were excited about this opportunity and willing to participate. After an orientation with students and staff, we settled into a consistent weekly routine.

“Jazz puts a smile on our face.”

Jazz and her handler Margo Rome spend a half an hour in the classroom making connections with students while they learn and engage in activities. Jazz and Margo often listen while students practice their reading or they participate in Morning Meeting with the entire class. Jazz loves the attention and often lays on her back for belly scratches. Jazz is now a celebrity in our elementary school and is greeted and petted by all as she walks down the hallways.  

“Jazz is quiet and calm while we read and she keeps us calm and quiet.”

Research has shown that therapy dogs positively affect our brain chemistry, reducing the stress hormone cortisol while increasing the hormone oxytocin that helps us feel regulated and comfortable. Interactions with dogs have also been found to lower blood pressure and heart rate, leading to a more calm learning environment.  

“We love reading with Jazz.”

Our students and staff share that having Jazz and Margo spending time in classrooms has been a positive experience and look forward to their time with Jazz and Margo each week. This resource is another way we can support students that have experienced trauma or that benefit from the opportunity to engage in mindfulness and regulation activities. I encourage you to explore having a therapy dog in your school through Therapy Dogs of Vermont at  therapydogs.org.  Our school has greatly benefited from participating in this experience.

“I like reading with Jazz because she was listening to me.”

Thomas Walsh is currently Principal of BFA Fairfax Elementary School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him on Twitter @educatamount