June 29, 2020

Mill River Schools Community,

The purpose of this email is to inform you of current status and thinking as details are developing for the fall and our efforts toward reopening schools. Please read this carefully. It is important for you to understand.

Agency of Education / Department of Health Safety and Health Guidance for Reopening Schools – we are planning our systems and procedures for tight compliance and implementation with fidelity to the guidelines for school reopening established at the state level. 

Transportation/School Buses – we are anticipating significant challenges with transportation. Currently, we are three (3) drivers short of being able to operate the number of buses we will need. In alignment with the health guidance, we will be operating buses at very limited capacity (we will have no more than 24 students per bus). This will mean we have to run more routes that will take longer, resulting in adjustments to school start and stop times. Students will be screened by a trained staff member before entering the bus, and failing the screening (ex: temperature above 100.4) will require the student to not board the bus. The impacts to our transportation system with driver shortages, screenings, and limited numbers of students on board the bus will result in significant impacts overall. In the next week or so we will firm up those impacts and will be surveying families in the next few weeks asking you to indicate your very specific intentions regarding school bus access so that we can be as efficient with our very limited resources as possible. We will also be requesting/encouraging any families that are able to drive students to school to do so.

Student Arrival – we are accustomed to managing student entry to school through a limited number of entrances. That will be shifting, as students will enter through multiple access points, where they will be screened by a trained staff member. This process will take time, although we will become more efficient at it as time goes on. Principals will be developing specific entry procedures for bus riders (already screened) and walkers/parent drop-offs (need to be screened).

Elementary School Attendance – we are designing plans for elementary school students to be in attendance at school 5 days per week (with exceptions to PreK students, who will likely be less). Our elementary schools will be able to group students as required by the guidance while still keeping them with us every day. 

MS/HS Attendance – it is not possible for us to meet the space and distancing requirements in the guidelines while having all 450 MRU students in the building. MRU will be developing what we are referring to as a “hybrid” schedule, which will likely look like an individual student being in-person at school two days per week and working remotely from home three days per week. This type of model is being widely developed in many school districts across the state, particularly at the MS/HS level. 

Remote Learning for Some/All? – I have received contacts from some families who are generally concerned about sending their children back to school in the fall. We are planning for how to better deliver instruction to students who are not necessarily physically present in school. The foundation for this is already underway through our staff professional development efforts, which are working toward what we are calling “module” based instructional delivery, the hybrid attendance concept at MS/HS, and standardizing the platforms we use (ex: Google Classroom for HS or Seesaw for PK-2). Our work at revising our remote learning practices and approach is based on the feedback received directly from parents and students. We strive to be flexible in meeting the needs of students while also able to adapt quickly and skillfully to the overall public health dynamics of the COVID situation, in the event that we see future school closures and required remote learning.

Facial Coverings – will be required for all students and staff. Please act now to begin identifying the facial coverings that work best for your children. I recommend having multiple backups as well. The district will be purchasing emergency backup facial coverings for students and staff in the event they are needed. However, the district will not be providing facial coverings for students and staff as a general rule. Facial coverings are an understood reality of participating in our society currently, and individual people have different needs and preferences that we will simply not be able to satisfy. Please take advantage of the time at hand to help your children practice wearing and caring for their own facial coverings.

Music Programming – one of the only instructional areas specifically addressed in the state guidance was that of performing arts, specifically choral groups and wind instrument groups. This creates a challenge in that our music educators will be delivering instruction and experiences in a unique environment. However, let me be clear in saying that our music programs will continue to not only occur, but thrive. I am grateful that we have top notch, excellent folks working on designing those experiences under unique and challenging circumstances.

Sports Programs – there have been no determinations as of yet regarding fall sports. I expect those to happen in the next 3-4 weeks. If I were predicting an outcome, I’d anticipate that elementary-based sports programs will not occur for the fall and MS/HS sports may see some sports able to occur and some unable to occur based on the dynamics of the specific sport and the ability to maintain social distancing while competing.

Summertime Travel – just a reminder, should you decide to travel this summer outside of Vermont to an area that will require you to quarantine upon return, placing your children in a position to have to accommodate a travel-based quarantine will be problematic as it relates to starting the school year.

Plans Solidifying – administrators are working to further refine our planning over the next few weeks. Our internal goal is to have our plans relatively solid by 7/15 so that handbooks, procedures, and communication can be developed. By 8/1 we hope to have everything very firm with little likelihood of changes before the start of the school year.

School Year Calendar – there is the possibility that changes to the 2020-2021 school year calendar might occur either at the regional or state level. If that does occur you will be informed as soon as there are firm details. If you are interested in the current calendar you can find it on the front page of our website at http://millriverschools.org . The first scheduled day of student attendance is currently set for Wednesday 8/26/2020.

I realize that this is a lot of information. It will continue to evolve every week. If you have questions, please let me know.

Have a peaceful and safe 4th of July holiday this coming weekend!


June 18, 2020

Mill River Schools Community,

This email contains two important updates:

  • Actions taken by the MRUUSD Board last night
  • Critical details behind schools reopening

Board Actions Taken on 6/17/2020

At last night’s board meeting, we reviewed the Four Year Equity Plan that our administration has been developing in order to solicit board feedback as we prepare to finalize and publish that plan. The plan is intended to capture the work that MRUUSD will be undertaking in order to accomplish board goals and meet the requirements of our District Equity Policy. I expect the plan to be finalized and published online in the coming days.

As a part of that discussion, the Board took specific actions last night directing the District to raise and fly the Black Lives Matter flag and the Pride flag at each of our five schools (MRU, CES, SMS, TMS, WES) beginning with the start of the new school year. This is a strong and important stance for a Board and District to take, and as an educational leader I do agree fully with the Board’s decision and direction.

The Board further directed administration to work with a group of stakeholders to develop an educational context for the flag-raising actions and specific plans for how the process will unfold. The group that will be developing those plans will be working under the facilitation of Jodie Stewart-Ruck, Principal at SMS. In that stakeholder group, student involvement and student voice will be the most important component. Teacher, support staff, parent, and board member involvement will also be important. Mrs. Stewart-Ruck is tasked with forming and facilitating the group in order to keep the work focused and effective toward meeting the directions given by the Board. If you have an interest in participating in that group effort, or have a student at home who would be interested, please send an email to jruck@millriverschools.org expressing that interest. Please note that this will be entirely summertime work as we design and plan the process.

Reopening Schools in the Fall

Yesterday, the Agency of Education and Department of Health issued the guidelines for safely reopening schools. They are very restrictive, but directly in line with what we were expecting. It is very important that families become familiar with these details now, which we do not see changing in any significant way prior to the start of school. I have attached a document that outlines the details in clear terms that are easier to digest. Please take some time to get familiar with this information as this informs all of our planning and focus as we move forward prepping for the fall. These are statewide guidelines and we will adhere to them closely in the MRUUSD

If you have any questions, please let me know. Thanks.

Essential Details – Safety and Health Guidance for Reopening Schools.pdf 6.18.2020.pdf