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June 11, 2021

MRUUSD Community Members,

I am finding it hard to believe that today is the last day of our school year for students. The experience of this year that we have all shared together has at times felt like it would never end. Yet, here we are! 

I’d like to personally thank our parent/guardian community for working with our schools through this incredibly challenging time. The decisions that we have made and the rules that we have had to follow this year have not always been popular, but our goal all along has been to get through the year as safely as possible for our students and staff, and we are pleased to have accomplished that. Thank you to those who expressed critical feedback as we progressed through the year. It was definitely heard. Thank you to those who expressed support and encouragement. It was also heard. And, thank you to our students, who are the reason that we all come to work every day and who have demonstrated resilience, perseverance, and determination through the most challenging school year that we can imagine. Our kids stepped up in so many ways, and we are proud of them.

There are some important pieces of information as we look ahead that are worth bringing to your attention:

Summer Activities

You are already aware that we have several in-district engagement options available to students this summer. If you are still seeking information about those please reach out to your school principal directly.

Vermont Adaptive Opportunity

Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports will offer its adaptive sports and recreation programs free of charge this summer to any athlete with a disability in K-12. Summer programs include cycling, mountain biking, canoeing and kayaking, hiking, rock climbing, environmental programs and Core Connections wellness education. 

In addition to serving K-12 adaptive athletes, Vermont Adaptive will create a new Apprenticeship Program for eligible youth ages 14-17 to become junior instructors and learn important job and coaching skills while supporting adaptive athletes. 

To learn more about and make a reservation for Vermont Adaptive’s Summer Programs, or to sign up to participate or volunteer, please visit www.vermontadaptive.org.  

Summer Meals and Meals Next School Year

We are fortunate to be able to provide meals this summer to all interested children aged 0-18 in our community. A survey was sent out a couple weeks ago to gather interest. Thank you to those who completed it. Meals will be able to be picked up at Clarendon Elementary School on Mondays from 7am-10pm from June 28th through August 16th.

Additionally, we are pleased to share with you that meals (lunch and breakfast) are being funded by the federal government for students throughout the 21-22 school year. That is fantastic news!

Next School Year Anticipated Details

At this point in time we are expecting the 21-22 school year to look and feel very close to what the 19-20 school year felt like for the first 9 months of the year (pre-pandemic). What does this mean?

  • If there are any restrictions on school operations they will likely be broader CDC-based general restrictions as opposed to any statewide or local restrictions.
  • Elementary school days return to 8:00 am – 3:00 pm.
  • MRU school days return to 8:15 am – 2:45 pm.
  • Bus routes will return to combined status, meaning that our K-12 students will once again ride school buses together.
  • The first day of school for all students is Wednesday, September 1st.
  • Next school year’s calendar can be found on the main page of our district website at http://millriverschools.org 

Transportation Details for the Fall

In early July we will be issuing an important survey to district families seeking to gather your intentions for next school year in terms of utilizing school bus service. This information will be used to design our bus routes. If your student(s) are riding a school bus next year it will be very important that you complete the survey, which will be shared multiple times in order to gather complete information from the community.

We generally try to have bus routes posted on our website within the first two weeks of August to assist you in your planning.

Final Email for this School Year

Since the pandemic began, you’ve heard from me nearly every week, sometimes multiple times per week. With this school year coming to a close the frequency of contact from my office will be reducing dramatically. Please don’t think that you are missing anything. Please do be on the lookout for information about transportation in July, and for more information not only from my office but also from your school principals directly as the month of August accelerates from a leisurely start to the excitement of the new school year.

I am grateful for our community, thank you for your support of our district, and wish you an enjoyable and safe summer!

Sincerely,

Dave


June 1, 2021

MRUUSD Community,

You are likely aware that the Governor has indicated that when 80% of Vermonters eligible for vaccines have had at least one dose that the Governor’s restrictions will be lifted. In today’s press conference the current status was cited as being between 77-78%. We have been watching this development and have been in communication with the Agency of Education and Health Department so that we can understand how those dynamics, when they do play out, will impact public school operations.

Superintendents received this communication from Secretary French (Agency of Education) and Dr. Levine (Vermont Department of Health) late last week that outlined the following as it relates to events when the Governor does lift restrictions:

The Health Department recommends, however, that schools continue to follow current
prevention strategies outlined in the “A Strong and Healthy Year” guidance for the remainder of
the school year because students will not be fully vaccinated.
 Youth under the age of 12 are not
yet eligible for vaccination. Youth between the ages of 12 and 15 became eligible for vaccination
on May 12, 2021. Because people are not fully vaccinated until 2 weeks after their second dose
of the Pfizer vaccine, students in this age group will not be fully vaccinated before the end of
the school year.

We strongly recommend schools follow Vermont’s “A Strong and Healthy Year” guidance for the
remainder of the school year.
 We think Vermont’s guidance has proven to be very effective in
ensuring the safety of our students, and it would be difficult for schools to successfully adopt new
operational routines so late in the school year.

As a school district, the MRUUSD will follow the strong recommendations of Dr. Levine and Secretary French in this regard. Whatever the statewide status, our schools will continue to follow the guidelines that have been in place this year. Masking and distancing requirements will still be in place until the conclusion of the school year for students and staff. Based on our communication with other districts, we are aware that most other public school districts will be taking the same approach.

Please be sure to attend closely to information, directions, and guidelines coming from our schools as it relates to end of year activities and events so that you are prepared to participate within the parameters that are in place. Your support as we work together to conclude this challenging but successful year is greatly appreciated.

Sincerely,

Dave


May 28, 2021

Mill River Schools Community,

The federal government continues to fund meals for students aged 0-18 in our community, and that option will continue for us through the summer with pickup for all meals on Mondays at Clarendon Elementary School.

If you are not interested in that opportunity, please ignore the rest of this email.

If you are interested, please complete this survey to give our food service a sense of demand. https://forms.gle/gMRKxq2q1irnr65LA

Details with dates and location are included on the survey.

Thank you,

Dave


May 24, 2021

Mill River Schools Community,

The State of Vermont will be issuing Pandemic-Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) cards to help with students’ food costs over the summer months. P-EBT benefits are funds provided on an electronic benefit transfer card that a household may use to purchase food items at grocery stores, convenience stores, online retailers and farmers markets where 3SquaresVT (SNAP) benefits are accepted. For families receiving 3SquaresVT, P-EBT benefits will be added to existing EBT cards.  Families who have already received a P-EBT card this school year will have the Summer P-EBT benefit added to their existing card.  For other families, you will receive a special P-EBT card from the Vermont Department for Children and Families for students who qualify.  Households will receive a one-time allotment of $375 per eligible student. The Summer P-EBT benefit will be issued in late July 2021.  
 
Eligibility for the benefit depends on a child’s eligibility for free and reduced school meals. All children are able to receive free meals this year due to special COVID-19 waivers obtained by the State. However, to receive the P-EBT benefit, students must either have an approved free and reduced meal application on file or have been directly certified for free school meals. Students may be directly certified for free meals if the household received 3SquaresVT or Reach Up benefits or because the student is state-placed foster, migrant, homeless, runaway or participates in a Head Start program.  If you are not already qualified for free and reduced price meals, you may still submit a free and reduced meal application now to see if you are eligible for the Summer P-EBT benefit. Please contact your student’s school office Administrative Assistant for information if you believe that you may still need to submit a free and reduced meal application for this purpose.
 
For households who have already received the P-EBT benefit this year, there is nothing more that you need to do, unless you would like to update your mailing address or head of household.  In that case, contact (fill in contact info).  For eligible households that have not yet received the benefit this year, we will be contacting you individually to check that your mailing address, head of household, and student date of birth are correct. You can find out more about P-EBT benefits by visiting https://dcf.vermont.gov/esd/covid19/P-EBT.

Thanks,

Dave


May 20, 2021

Mill River Schools Community,

For your information.

Dave

Vermont Foodbank Announces Full Plates VT


The Vermont Foodbank is excited to announce the launch of Full Plates VT. Full Plates VT will distribute food boxes at drive-thru style distributions throughout all fourteen counties in Vermont. The program is currently scheduled to run from June – September, 2021.
 
To keep wait times to a minimum, reservations will be required for the distributions. Registration will go live on May 24, 2021, and new dates will be added to the registration website every two weeks. To register and see the dates and locations, please visit vtfoodbank.org/gethelp or call (833) 670-2254 for assistance.
 
Each reservation will receive fresh produce along with other fresh and self-stable products. Each household must register for their own food box and self-certify that they meet the income guidelines. You will not be asked for proof of income. If you are unable to attend the event in person, you may register for a food box and designate another person to pick it up from the distribution.


MRUUSD Community Members,

Please see the important information below regarding vaccine access for students ages 12-18. We have been asked to share this information by the State of Vermont.

—–

May 13, 2021

Dear MRUUSD Parent/Guardian:

In coordination with the Vermont Department of Health, Vermont Emergency Management and the Agency of Education, we wanted to let you know about an upcoming vaccination clinic in our area that is available to support our students ages 12 and up to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. This clinic is available to serve our students ages 12 and up as well as members of our community – including parents.

Our 12-15-year-old students are newly eligible to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

Please see details about the vaccination clinic below. 

Sincerely,

Dave Younce, Superintendent

Clinic Details

Clinic Location:   Rutland Holiday Inn

Clinic Street Address:   477 Holiday Road, Rutland VT 05701

Clinic Date(s):   May 18 – May 23            Clinic Hours:   1:00 pm – 6:00 pm each day

Registration

The best way to reserve a dose of vaccine for your child is to register online.  As part of registering online, you will be asked to provide your consent as their parent/guardian for your child to receive the vaccine. More information on registering online is available on the Health Department website.

Anyone who is unable to make their appointment online, needs help, or who wants to speak with someone in a language other than English can call (855) 722-7878 and press 1 for interpretation services, Monday through Friday from 8:15 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. This phone line is TTY enabled.

If your older student is able to independently travel to and from the clinic, you do not need to be present for their appointment, though you are always welcome to attend with them. We also encourage you to make an appointment for yourself if you are not yet vaccinated!

If your child attends the clinic without you, they will be asked to confirm the answers to health questions that were part of the registration process, such as whether or not they:

·   have any history of allergic reaction to vaccines or injectable therapies

·   are currently sick with COVID-19

·   have recently had any other vaccines

·   have a bleeding disorder or are taking blood thinners

·   are breastfeeding or lactating

Walk-Ins

The best way to ensure a dose is available for your child is to register in advance, but depending on how many registrations are made, we expect there may be a limited number of walk-in doses available. If your child takes advantage of a walk-in appointment, we will need to get your consent for them to be vaccinated in one of three ways:

·   You can come to the clinic with your child and give your consent in person.

·   You can complete and sign the Vaccine Consent Form.

·   A member of the vaccine clinic staff can call you on the phone to talk to you and document your consent.

Other Options to Get Vaccinated

If this community clinic is not at convenient time or location for your family, there are many options statewide to get vaccinated. Your 12-18-year-old can register for vaccine at any community or school-based vaccine clinic providing the Pfizer vaccine. In addition, pharmacies at Kinney Drugs, CVS, Costco and Hannaford’s are now offering appointments for Pfizer vaccine to Vermonters aged 12 and up. Please note that each pharmacy has its own process and requirements for parental consent.


May 1, 2021

MRUUSD Community,

The message below was just shared with CES families and staff. It is being shared with you for informational purposes only.

Thank you.

Dave

—–

May 1, 2021

Clarendon Elementary School Families,

We were informed today of a positive COVID case in our learning community at CES. 

As of this time we have reached out to all close contacts.

Our PreK classrooms at CES will be placed in remote learning status for at least Monday and Tuesday of this coming week, and PreK families can expect to hear more from Mr. Valastro on those specific details sometime tomorrow (Sunday). 

Attached below is a general letter for your review.

5.1.2021 CES COVID General Letter.pdf 

Thank you,

Dave


April 23, 2021

Mill River Schools Community,

This week’s email does not contain any urgent information. It does address:

  • MRU 4-day in-person schedule begins May 3rd
  • End of Year Celebration details hopefully coming soon
  • Travel requirements reminder
  • Summertime options starting to emerge

We are still on track to begin the 4 days per week in-person schedule for in-person students at MRU beginning on Monday, May 3rd. Materials have arrived, spaces are being prepared, and the MRU team is on top of scheduling and details. For MRU families, please direct any inquiries to Mr. Weideman at tweideman@millriverschools.org .

We are expecting to possibly receive guidance/rules from the state very soon regarding end of year celebrations / graduations / moving up ceremonies / etc. Once we receive those and sort out the details of what is and is not permissible we will be able to begin finalizing some of those types of plans.

If you are engaged in any travel as a family, please remember to stay on top of the Vermont Department of Health’s requirements for travel. There are distinctions for vaccinated vs. unvaccinated travel, and domestic vs. international travel. Those rules do change based on state decisions, and we are required as a district to implement them when it comes to staff and students being in the school.

I’d like to encourage you to check out this website if you are interested in summer programs for your school-aged children. https://www.vermontafterschool.org/summermatters/ The state is gathering information on the site about the many options available to students this summer. You can search for specific areas or connected to specific school districts. You will see that our regular summer camp that we offer are posted on the site with contact information. We are also in the process of designing other opportunities that will utilize the federal funding that the district is receiving. Once those plans are firm I will share them with you via this email format and they also will eventually show up on the state site linked above. Ideally we would love to have all of these details firmed up and ready at this point to share with you, but the regulations, funding, and state-required details for our district are just now starting to become clear. We’ll share what we have as soon as we have it.

I hope that you have a peaceful and relaxing weekend.

Dave


April 13, 2021

Mill River Schools Community,

I hope that your are in the midst of enjoying a relaxing April Break.

This email is informational for all, but ultimately pertains only to Mill River Union. This information does not impact our elementary schools.

The survey that we issued to our Mill River Union (Middle School and High School) families, faculty and staff last week yielded the following results:

  • Based on this feedback, at MRU (the middle and high school) we will be adjusting the in-person learning schedule, EFFECTIVE MAY 3RD, to 4 days per week in-person and 1 day per week remote for all learners who are attending school in-person.
  • THIS SHIFT WILL NOT OCCUR UNTIL MONDAY, MAY 3RD. The two week window post-break will provide time for families and the school to make plans for the shift to happen.
  • In-person learning days will be Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursday and Fridays. Wednesdays will remain a fully-remote day for all MRU students.
  • This shift will not affect the schedules of our students who have been learning remotely this year.

Further information in terms of scheduling and other key details will be provided directly to the MRU Community by Principal Tyler Weideman. If you have questions about schedules, logistics, or your individual student’s situation please expect to see information coming directly from Mr. Weideman, or feel free to contact him at tweideman@millriverschools.org .

Thank you,

Dave


April 9, 2021

Mill River Schools Community,

This email contains information about:

  • Updated guidance from the state
  • Health screening expectations for after break
  • Updated state travel requirements

Updated School/COVID guidance was released by the state yesterday. We have internally reviewed the details of the updated guidance and would like to share some key details with you for how we will move forward through the end of the school year.

NOTE: MRU families, faculty and staff – your survey (issued yesterday) is open until 9pm this evening and I will share more information by mid-next week on the topic of MRU instructional models during final 7-8 weeks of the school year. MRU families should please access yesterday’s email for the link to that survey.

Key details for all MRUUSD families to be aware of:

  • Health screenings as currently constituted will discontinue after April Break. Staff and families will now be fully responsible for ensuring that anyone (student or staff) who reports to school does not have a temperature of 100.4 or higher, does not have any symptoms related to COVID, and has not been around a person who has tested positive for COVID. Simply put, staying home when sick continues to be a top priority. In addition to masks, this is one of the key tools that has prevented more positive cases from showing in our schools. Our protocols and the Department of Health’s requirements for managing positive cases and quarantines in the schools have not changed and are not expected to change at this time.
  • Effective today according to the Governor’s announcement, un-vaccinated individuals who return from travel are expected by the state to test within the first 3 days upon return. Once they have tested, they are eligible to return to school or work without waiting for the test results. If a test comes back positive the protocols for addressing that will continue to be implemented as they have been up to now. Fully-vaccinated (2 weeks post final dose) are not required to quarantine or test after travel.

I hope that you and your families have a safe, healthy and relaxing April Break.

Dave


April 8, 2021

MRU Families, Faculty and Staff –

Please take a few minutes to read the attached letter regarding in-person return concepts and complete the survey that is linked within the letter.

MRU In-Person Return Concept.pdf 

Thank you,

Dave


April 3, 2021

Mill River Community,

This message is being shared with you as FYI.

Clarendon Elementary families, faculty and staff were informed just a bit ago of a positive COVID case in the learning community at CES.

CES 3rd grade will be in remote learning for the next week, and CES will be closed to all students on Monday for deep cleaning, with all grade levels other than 3rd grade returning on Tuesday.

The attached general letter has more information if you are interested.

4.3.2021 CES COVID General Letter.pdf 

Thanks,

Dave


April 2, 2021

9:00 am

Mill River Schools Community,

The purpose of this email is to provide information regarding:

  • WES status for next week
  • Last day of school for students
  • April Break Travel
  • Looking ahead to post-April break

As of this precise moment, we are planning for Wallingford Elementary to be open for next week in-person learning on its regular schedule. Weekends are actually the heaviest and most volatile time for schools with the processing of positive cases and contact tracing – so there is not a way to truly know what to expect for next week until we get to Monday morning. But, our plans at this precise time are to be fully open at WES on Monday.

The last school day for MRUUSD students this year will be Friday, June 11th. That day will be a half day of student attendance. Individual schools and principals will share more detailed information with you about school schedules, etc. as the last weeks of school approach.

With April Break approaching, I hope that you have plans to mentally get away, and I anticipate that some families have plans to physically get away. 

It is necessary and important for me to remind the community that as a school district we are expected to fully comply with the state’s travel and quarantine restrictions as we navigate the return from April Break. We are not permitted by the state to have individuals in school (students or staff) that should be quarantining due to personal travel. Please remain aware of the requirements and assist us in keeping the virus out of our schools to the best of our ability. The travel restrictions do change occasionally, so families will want to pay close attention to news from state government and check for updates online.

You can find the travel restrictions at: https://www.healthvermont.gov/covid-19/travel-quarantine

As we look at the post-April Break period, we are finalizing potential plans for what increasing in-person days for MRU students might potentially look like. We are waiting on explicit guidance from the state that will outline what we are and are not permitted to do in terms of distancing, space utilization, etc. When that information from the state lands with us we will review all details and then survey our families and staff to hear perspectives on our options in order to assist with decision-making about how we finish this school year.

It is my aspirational hope that a survey might possibly be able to be issued by the middle of next week with a tight turnaround. If you do not see such a survey issued, it is because we do not yet have the information we need from the state in order to put the survey out to you. Whatever decisions we ultimately make, we will be measured in terms of lead time, preparation, and attention to detail. 

Thanks, and have a good weekend.

Dave


April 1, 2021

4:25 pm

MRUUSD Community,

The message below was sent to MRU families, faculty and staff this evening re: a positive COVID case at MRU.

Dave

—–

April 1, 2021

6:20 pm

MRU Families, Faculty and Staff,

Please see the attached letter re: a positive COVID case in the MRU learning community.

4.1.2021 MRU COVID General Letter.pdf 

All close contacts have been notified and there are no program or schedule impacts related to this case.

Thanks,

Dave


March 30, 2021

Mill River Schools Community,

Our food service staff are preparing for meals availability during the April Break. 

Five (5) days worth of frozen meals will be available for pickup for individuals ages 0-18 in the MRUUSD community. 

Pickup will occur on Friday 4/9/2021 from 8:00-3:00 at Mill River Union.

If you are interested, please complete this brief survey: https://forms.gle/e2wpHLbomge4ZcfZA

The survey closes this Thursday 4/1/2021 at 5pm.

If you are not interested, there is nothing you need to do at this time.

Thanks,

Dave


IMPORTANT FOR ALL MRUUSD FAMILIES – PLEASE READ

March 28, 2021

6:25 pm

Mill River Schools Community Members,

The message below in italics was just sent to families and faculty and staff at WES. It is being shared with you for your information.

WES will be in remote learning for all grades PK-6 for the week on 3/29 – 4/2.

Thank you,

Dave

——

IMPORTANT WES INFORMATION SUNDAY 3.28.2021

March 28, 2021

6:20 pm

Good afternoon Wallingford Elementary School Families, Faculty and Staff,

Today has been an interesting day for us. We were informed last night by the Department of Health of a presumed positive case at WES and were directed to begin identifying and notifying close contacts who needed to enter quarantine. That process was fully completed at roughly 3:30 this afternoon.

Once the identification and contact of all close contacts was completed we received another update from the Department of Health indicating that their assessment of the presumed positive case had changed, and that the individuals we had directed to quarantine no longer needed to quarantine. We then re-contacted each family and staff member that had been informed earlier of their quarantine status and notified them that they no longer needed to quarantine. That process was completed just prior to this message being prepared.

With all of those details, it is important that I express that I am very concerned that there may be more cases bubbling up quickly in our community. We heard many stories today of COVID symptoms and plans to test when we engaged with our families and staff regarding quarantine. As a result, I have decided to place WES PK-6th on remote learning status for this full week of 3/29 – 4/2. This is a precautionary measure intended to monitor conditions in the WES community and keep as many students and staff away from virus dynamics as possible.

Tomorrow, Monday 3/29, there will not be any classes scheduled at WES. Students and staff are not currently prepared for remote learning, so tomorrow will be a day set aside for picking up materials and preparing. 

Remote learning will commence on Tuesday morning and continue through the end of the week. Mr. Betts will follow this email with a message regarding pickup of materials (if needed) during the day on Monday.

It is my hope that all will be smooth through this week and that we will have all students and staff return in-person next Monday for a full week prior to the April Break. My commitment is that we will watch the circumstances and be safe in our decision-making, and that we will keep you informed of any new information whenever we are able to.

Thank you for your understanding and patience as today’s details have unfolded. Thanks also to the families that we worked with directly on the quarantine situations. Their grace and flexibility was impressive as they responded to back and forth information that was definitely out of everyone’s control.

In closing, it is important that I reiterate the importance of social distancing, wearing masks in public situations, hand hygiene, and staying home from school when sick or showing symptoms of COVID-19. These strategies have been and can continue to be effective in helping us to limit positive cases in our schools.

Sincerely,

Dave


IMPORTANT FOR ALL MRUUSD FAMILIES – PLEASE READ

March 27, 2021

6:20 pm

Mill River Schools Community Members,

The message below in italics was just sent to families and faculty and staff at MRU. It is being shared with you for your information.

We have also now been notified of a positive case at Wallingford Elementary School in addition to the cases at MRU. We are working with the Vermont Department of Health on that case this evening and will be in contact with all close contacts of that case within the next 24 hours. Once all WES close contacts have been notified, I will send a notice to WES families and staff indicating that all contacts have been notified and addressing any school wide scheduling ramifications.

I will follow that email up with an FYI email to all district families and staff members.

Once again, all close contacts for the case at WES will be contacted by district personnel within the next 24 hours and you can expect more communication after that is completed.

Thank you,

Dave

—–

March 27, 2021

6:15 pm

Good afternoon Mill River Union families, Faculty and Staff,

I am contacting you at this time to inform you that we have become aware today (Saturday, 3/27) of two additional positive COVID cases that were present in the learning community at Mill River. These cases are in addition to the case that I first reported to you on Thursday evening.

At this time, all close contacts of these cases have been notified. 

We are not projecting any impacts to school operations next week as of this moment. 

If there are any changes to MRU scheduling for the coming days, those changes will be communicated directly to you by Mr. Weideman. 

Once again, all close contacts of the positive cases have been contacted and informed at this time. 

In closing, it is important that we reiterate the importance of social distancing, wearing masks in public situations, hand hygiene, and staying home from school when sick or showing symptoms of COVID-19. These strategies have been and can continue to be effective in helping us to limit positive cases in our schools.

Thank you,

Dave Younce

Superintendent of Schools


March 26, 2021

Mill River Schools Community Members,

There are a number of important details in this email, including:

  • Current MRU Status Update
  • Current COVID Realities
  • Potential for More In-Person Instruction at MRU
  • Determination of Final Student Day in June + End of Year Activities

As of now, all individuals who have been determined to be close contacts to the most recent MRU positive COVID case and are required to quarantine have been contacted. Please feel free to read the attached general community letter below.

MRU COVID General Letter 3.26.2021.pdf 

While we are all weary with the COVID experience, it is far from over. New variants are emerging, and local cases have been rising in a way that is directly affecting the ability of schools to remain open to in-person instruction. Just this week we closed CES and MRU to instruction for one day apiece. Depending on the magnitude of a given case, we are only a few individuals away in any of our schools from being forced into longer term closures or remote periods. Please know that we are doing our best in the schools to implement the precautionary measures required. But, we are seeing actions in the community directly impacting our efforts. Please continue to do everything you can to keep our students and staff healthy and our schools open to in person instruction.

Aspirational statements continue to come from the state government regarding the concept of returning more students to more in-person instruction following April Break. Those statements have slowed slightly as things are escalating, but the pressure is still there despite the fact that the ground rules don’t allow for changes yet. Secretary French has indicated that the Agency of Education and Department of Health are in the process of reviewing CDC Guidance regarding 6 foot vs. 3 foot distancing, and we have been told that we can expect to see new guidance on this topic issued to schools in early April. We’ve been developing theoretical plans for what an increase to in-person learning might look like at MRU if the guidelines allow for it, and when those guidelines come out we will review our plans with the reality of the rules. I do plan to consult with MRU parents as well as faculty and staff from MRU to gather people’s thoughts as we consider our options. At this stage it is impossible to determine whether more in-person instruction will be feasible before the end of the year. Regardless, we are working on being ready for whatever circumstances and dynamics emerge in the coming weeks.

I expect that by next Friday I will be in a position to announce what the final student day of attendance will be for the 20-21 school year. As we look at the end of the school year people begin to ask questions about traditional end of year activities and what will be permitted and what will not. Simply put, it all depends on the directions that we receive from the state and when we receive those directions. 

Some examples of current status are:

  • MRU Prom – unfortunately will not occur. This is the case in the surrounding high schools as well. The logistics and distancing dynamics required simply do not allow for this activity.
  • MRU Graduation – we are eventually expecting guidance from the state that permits graduation ceremonies in some capacity. A MRU-based team is designing options that manage social distancing and limited numbers of available seats for families (much less than normal). We do intend to have a graduation ceremony, although we expect that it will look differently than we are all accustomed to. At the elementary level for any end of school year ceremonies that traditionally occur we will likely follow a similar pattern to what occurs at MRU, based on the guidance we ultimately receive from the state.
  • Field Trips – we determined at the beginning of this year based on COVID and budgeting dynamics that field trips would not occur, and do not intend to change that approach. End of year celebratory trips are not expected to occur at this time.
  • Summer Programs – there are various aspects involved in summer programming. We are developing our regular Summer Camp Programming that families are accustomed to accessing. We are also developing some social emotional, connection-based plans that will become clearer to us as we approach May 1st. We know that local recreation programs are doing their own planning, but we do not yet have clarity from the state regarding what will be permitted in terms of outside access to school grounds during the summer. Once we know those details we will be able to further plan for how or when outside groups might or might not have access to school grounds.

Thank you for taking the time to review all of this important information.

Dave


March 25, 2021

4:45pm

Mill River Schools Community Members,

The message below was just sent to families and faculty and staff at MRU via phone and email. It is being shared with you for your information.

Dave

—–

March 25, 2021

4:30pm

Good evening Mill River Union families, Faculty and Staff,

I am contacting you at this time to inform you that we have just become aware of a positive COVID case that was present in the learning community at Mill River.

Due to the timing of this notice, Mill River will be remote for all students and staff tomorrow, Friday March 26th. We will be using this evening and the full day tomorrow to complete our contact tracing work, communicate with the families of any individuals that have been identified as being required to quarantine, and begin extra sanitizing procedures in impacted areas of the building that may require them. We expect that we will have that process completed within 24 hours of this message, and you will receive a message from me informing you of the plans for moving forward on Monday. All close contacts will have been contacted within 24 hours of this message being sent.

Thank you for your understanding. I do understand that the timing of this message is not ideal. To be thorough, this phone call will be accompanied by an email with the exact same information.

Once again, Mill River will be fully remote tomorrow. Close contacts of the positive case will be informed within the next 24 hours, and more information for all will be provided at some point tomorrow.

Thank you,

Dave Younce

Superintendent of Schools


March 22, 2021

Mill River Schools Community,

The attached letter was shared with CES families. It is being shared with you as FYI.

CES COVID General Letter 3.22.2021.pdf 

All close contacts from the case have been determined and contacted as of this time.

CES will return to in-person learning tomorrow, with the exception of one classroom which is quarantining.

Thank you,

Dave


March 16, 2021

Mill River Schools Community,

There was a glitch in the regional technical center calendar, which drives our local school calendar.

Our February Break is always the week of Presidents’ Day. Presidents’ Day in 2022 is on February 21st (as opposed to the 14th, as the calendar had anticipated).

Our school year calendar has been adjusted to accommodate.

What is the change?   February Break was scheduled for Feb 14-18. It is now scheduled for Feb 21-25. 

The updated calendar will be posted on our website this morning but is attached to this message as well.

MRUUSD 21-22 Calendar DRAFT 3.16.2021.pdf 

I do not have reason to believe that there will be any other anticipated changes to the 21-22 calendar at this time.

Thanks,

Dave


March 12. 2021

Mill River Schools Community,

This is an update that is full of theoreticals – attempting to project what may lie ahead for us. It applies primarily to Mill River Union Middle/High School but also to our remote learning families. It is worth a read and understanding by all district families.

It is shared in an attempt to keep you informed of what may occur in the coming weeks and months. Please take this message for exactly what it is – the best analysis we can put together at this moment regarding the lay of the land in both the COVID and school context.

—–

We are hearing and seeing signals from our VT State Government – although no solid statements have been made yet – that the distancing guidelines that currently limit us to 6’ of physical distancing for students at MRU may be eventually changed to 3’, perhaps sometime in April. 

As you are aware, the 6’ distancing is the barrier that has required MRU and many other schools in the state to utilize hybrid instructional systems during this school year. The distancing requirements have been the key variable all along that has prevented full time in-person instruction from occurring. That may be changing, and determining the impacts of such a change is among the many tasks ahead of school districts right now.

We have been planning for what 3’ distancing will potentially do for us in terms of programming at MRU. We anticipate that it will open up some new opportunities and that other dynamics will be less impacted or not impacted at all. It currently does not appear (based on what we are hearing) that any statewide changes will occur before mid-April at the earliest.

I anticipate that if and when a shift in distancing guidelines occurs that I will present to MRU families a broad overview of what any changes would look like if implemented, and will then ask MRU families to respond via survey to indicate their preferences between these two options:

  1. Shift to a new model of instructional delivery for the final weeks of the year based on whatever the new guidelines provide.
  2. Remain as we currently are, with hybrid learning as the instructional delivery model until the end of the school year.

Those survey responses will have a significant impact on our next steps.

I also anticipate surveying faculty and staff along the same lines to gather and assess their perspectives as well on the matter.

Regardless of how a survey process ultimately turns out, I am committed to the district maintaining its remote option for families that have chosen that approach through the end of this school year. However, I currently expect that the likelihood of a remote option for next school year is incredibly slim, assuming that virus mitigation and vaccine measures continue to progress as they are. If things keep progressing we are hoping that the fall will be very normal from a school day standpoint, including reverting back or closer to our traditional school hours and transportation arrangements from the 2019-2020 school year.

If you have any questions about this update please let me know.

Thanks,

Dave


March 5, 2021

Mill River Schools Community,

This email contains information regarding:

  • Town Meeting Day
  • Remote Learning
  • Next School Year (21-22) Tentative Calendar

First, a sincere thanks on behalf of our students and staff in the district for your votes on Town Meeting Day that saw our budget approved 60% to 40%. That support is important and meaningful.

Also, congratulations and welcome to the new members of our school board:

Asha Carroll – Tinmouth

Matt Gouchberg – Clarendon

Sam Green – Shrewsbury

Bruce Moreton – Wallingford

They join Maria French – Wallingford, who retained her incumbent seat as well as the other six seated members of the MRUUSD Board.

For our families who are engaged in full-time remote learning, our next commitment window will run up to our April Break. If you are currently remote and wish to remain in that status, please plan on remaining until at least April 9th (the Friday before the break).

If you are remote currently but would like to return, please contact your school principal directly to make arrangements.

The reason for the April 9th date is that there are conflicting messages coming out of state government focused on vaccinations, distancing requirements, and a push for more in-person instruction. For MRU in particular, the variable that requires us to utilize a hybrid schedule is the required 6′ distancing. If that requirement changes or is removed, we may be able to bring more students back into MRU each day. Without a change to that requirement we are unable to do so. Not knowing what the future holds, it makes sense to keep our remote commitments up to April Break and I will in turn keep the community informed if anything new develops.

If you are a remote family now you may be asking yourself, “What happens to our remote status if the Governor orders all students back in-person full time on a certain date?” The simple answer is that we have no idea. I have heard statements from state government indicating that they understand that many families are committed to staying remote learning for this year as a family choice. I have then heard conflicting statements that indicate they want to see every student back full time every day. Those decisions will ultimately come from the state. I will keep you as informed as I can.

Attached below is the current tentative school year calendar for the 2021-2022 school year. I do expect that this is reasonably solid and that you can start to make general plans based on what you see here. Things can of course change, but it is important that you have this information sooner rather than later so that you can begin to plan your summers in particular.

MRUUSD 21-22 Calendar 2.26.2021.pdf 

If you have any questions please feel free to reach out.

Thanks,

Dave


February 8, 2021

Mill River Community Members,

We became aware today (2/8/2021) of a new positive COVID case in our MRU learning community. We have been working with the Vermont Department of Health to navigate that situation, and contact tracing has been completed. 

As of this time, families of students who are considered close contacts have been contacted by district personnel. Any staff members who are considered close contacts have already begun quarantine. If your family has not already been informed of a required quarantine,  your student has not been determined to be connected to the situation in any way that we are aware of that designates them as a close contact.

There are no impacts from this case on school operations overall at MRU at this time.

I would be remiss if I failed to point out, however, that the tangled web of quarantine related to close contacts and positive cases in the broader community does pose some risk to our ability to maintain in-person school operations and in-person student programs. Thank you for your continued vigilance. It is very important at this particular time.

Please see the attached informational letter below.

MRU COVID General Letter 2.8.2021.pdf 

Thank you,

Dave


February 5, 2021

Mill River Schools Community,

This is the follow-up email mentioned earlier today. It contains:

1. Update re: contact tracing

2. General letter to the community regarding a positive COVID case in the MRU community

3. Survey link for meals access for February Break week of 2/15-2/19

I have just been informed that our contact tracing for all close contacts related to the MRU case have been contacted. If you have not heard anything from the school as of this time, your student is not considered to be a close contact of the case.

Please see the attached general letter which addresses the positive case situation. There is no new information contained related to the MRU case, but there is useful information for you review.

MRU COVID General Letter 2.5.2021.pdf 

If you are planning to pick up meals for the week of February Break (pickup on 2/12 from 8:00-3:00 at MRU) please complete this survey. The survey closes next Monday morning (2/8) at 9am.

https://forms.gle/TboU1dbsaCiooTkk8

Thank you.

Dave


February 5, 2021

Mill River Schools Community,

This email contains very important information regarding:

1. COVID – Remote Learning for MRU Middle School

2. Meals Availability Schedule and Advance Planning

COVID – Remote Learning for MRU Middle School

I informed the Mill River Union (MRU) community last night that due to a positive case in our MRU learning community that the Middle School (staff and students) were being placed in remote learning status for today. We have been working with the Vermont Department of Health since last night to navigate that situation, and contact tracing is underway currently. As of this time, families of students who are considered close contacts are still being contacted. If you receive a call from an unknown number today please answer it as it may be related to contact tracing. Individuals who are required to quarantine will be contacted directly by the school (still underway throughout the day today). 

Due to the dynamics of the case we are placing the Middle School on remote learning status throughout next week (2/8-2/12), which takes us up to the start of February break.

This does not in any way affect the high school. High school siblings of middle school students have not been placed on any new remote learning status beyond their current hybrid schedule.

For those who may wonder, middle school sports will still be permitted to operate next week.

As we all know, actions and exposure in the community or in school can have an impact on the availability of our students and staff to maintain in-person school. Thank you for continuing to attend to those details.

You will see me send out more “official” notifications later today. Those will not change the information being shared here. This email is simply intended to give you the best advance information we are able to provide related to our decision-making on this matter.

Meals Availability Schedule and Advance Planning

The following details apply to availability of meals for students in the coming weeks.

Next week, meals pickup shifts back to the previous schedule:

Monday 8:00-3:00 @ MRU

Thursday 8:00-3:00 @ MRU

Also, on Friday of next week (2/12) we will have 5 days worth of meals available for pickup at MRU from 8:00-3:00. This is intended to cover the February break week for families who would like to access that resource. In order to prepare for that, we need to have a sense of exactly how many meals to order.

I will send a survey to families with a separate email later today that is intended to gauge who intends to pick up meals for the February Break week of 2/15-2/19.

Please be on the lookout for that later today, closer to the end of the business day. That email will include the more “official” COVID-related notifications mentioned previously as well.

Thank you,

Dave


January 29, 2021

Mill River Schools Community,

This email contains information on the following:

1. Meals availability next week

2. Thank you – and looking ahead

3. Tentative details on 2021-2022 school year calendar

Meals pickup for families that are interested will continue next week only on Monday 2/1/2021 from 8:00-3:00 at MRU, as we still have enough frozen meals on hand for a 5-day pickup.

Once those meals have been fully distributed we will return to the regular 2-day per week pickup schedule.

If you have a personal situation that impacts your ability to pick up meals during that window on Monday, please be in contact with your school principal and they will work to support your specific need next week.

I’d like to extend sincere thanks to our community members for the efforts at keeping COVID physically out of our schools. While we are not resting on our laurels, at this point in time we have had only one (1) positive case in a school in the district. Neighboring districts have not been nearly as fortunate. Our current status is due to the vigilance that we are seeing with strict protocols and expectations at school, students and staff who are not feeling well staying home, and masking / social distancing / hand washing becoming regular parts of our routines. The effort that our community has made is what keeps our schools open to in-person learning. We are not at the finish line yet, but we can see it in the distance and must remain vigilant. We will do so in our schools, and are grateful that you are doing the same in the community. 

The school year calendar for next year is still very tentative, but may be ready to be shared in the next several weeks. For your advance thinking and planning, here are some key dates:

9/1 – First day of school for students

11/24-11/26 – Thanksgiving Break

12/23-1/2 – December Holiday Break

2/14-2/18 – February Break

4/18-4/22 – April Break

6/13 – TENTATIVE last day of school for students, barring any weather days

While there is a possibility that some of this information may change, I anticipate that the breaks are relatively firm. I hope this information is helpful.

Sincerely,

Dave


January 15, 2021

Mill River Schools Community,

This week’s update is a bit more general in nature and covers some big picture district topics for your awareness.

1. As I type this, the Governor has just announced that athletic programs are permitted to expand from no contact practices to incidental contact practices for indoor sports. There are no explicit plans expressed yet about whether competitions or games will be able to occur. There are questions in the community and in our schools about this decision, given that cases generally are at the highest rates we have seen. The Governor does make the ultimate decision on these matters. Further communication for MRU athletic families will come from our athletic director and principal as needed.

2. Last week the MRUUSD Board approved its proposed budget for the operation of our schools during the 2021-2022 school year. The Board, in my opinion, did excellent work to develop a budget that was responsible to taxpayers while attending to the needs of our students. Overall, the budget is increasing 0.17% over the 2020-2021 school year budget. Per student spending is down 0.98% overall. 

3. The school district’s annual meeting will be held virtually on February 25th. All items discussed at that meeting will be voted on in our town voting through normal voting processes on Town Meeting Day, March 2nd. If you are interested in viewing or participating in that virtual meeting, a copy of the warning is attached to this email.

4. The district normally selects a moderator, clerk and treasurer at that annual meeting, but this year those positions will be voted on Town Meeting Day. If you are interested in having your name on the ballot for one of those roles, the Candidate Consent form is attached to this email as well. These forms are due on January 25th and must be returned to the Town Clerk’s Office in your town of residence.

Please be reminded that Monday is a school holiday, in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Have a great weekend,

Dave

2021 MRUUSD Annual Meeting Warning FINAL.docx (1).pdf 

Candidate Conset Form MRUUSD 2021 Annual Meeting.pdf 


December 18, 2020

Mill River Schools Community,

Here we are. Our last school day in 2020. In a challenging year for the entire world, I hope that you and your family are able to find some degree of relaxation and enjoyment in the coming weeks as the holiday season reaches its zenith.

One thing I learned this week… I was commenting to our Director of Operations on Monday morning that we’d been really lucky this year and hadn’t seen a snow day prior to the December break. Under normal circumstances we would have seen two or three already. So, yesterday’s storm is entirely my fault. I ruined the snowless streak and should have kept my thoughts to myself. Please accept my apologies for that as well as for your potentially aching back from time spent in the driveway digging out.

In this email:

  • Lunches during the break and remote week in January
  • Remote Learning Students next decision date
  • Volunteer Tutors Available

Lunches will be available for all residents aged 18 and under during the December break and during our remote learning period the week of January 4th. 

Five (5) days worth of meals will be provided with pickup.

Details are as follows:

Monday 12/21 – from 7am-11am – pickup at MRU front door.

Monday 12/28 – from 7am-11am – pickup at MRU front door.

Monday 1/4 – from 7am-11am – pickup at MRU front door.

Effective January 4th, we will also be discontinuing the evening meals pickup window, which has been from 4pm-6pm. Please plan accordingly.

Students who are full-time remote learners previously committed that they would remain in full-time remote learning until January 25th. With that date approaching, our next commitment window will extend to March 15th. Families that wish to remain in full-time remote learning do not need to do anything at this time, but should understand that if they continue we are asking them to do so until at least March 15th. As that March date approaches, we will announce a new commitment date based on where things are with the dynamics of the virus and vaccine in our area and statewide.

If your student(s) are currently accessing full-time remote learning and you plan to have your student(s) return in-person after January 25th, please be in contact with the appropriate school principal so that they can make plans accordingly.

We are pleased to share that we have placed information for accessing volunteer tutors on our website on the main page at http://millriverschools.orgYou’ll see a link that says “Access Volunteer Tutors” that will take you to a listing of tutors, their various experience, and email addresses to contact them. All tutors that we post on the site have passed required background checks. Arrangements are up to the family and the tutor. We do expect that those arrangements will be remote in nature.

It is my sincere hope that you have a fantastic holiday season. All the best to each of you and your families.

Dave


December 11, 2020

Mill River Community Members,

In this email:

  • Thank you
  • Survey Response Update
  • Post-Holiday Plans

Thank you to all who shared input with us through the survey that was issued on Wednesday and closed this morning. We have roughly 550 individual student households in the district and received 405 responses, for a 74% response rate, which is outstanding by any measure. Your input is appreciated and was helpful in applying additional thinking to our planning.

For those who are interested in the survey outcomes, this is what we heard from you:

Forms response chart. Question title: How would you feel about the possibility of MRUUSD schools operating remotely during the first week after the December break, from Monday 1/4 through Friday 1/8, with intention to return to current in-person models on 1/11/2021.. Number of responses: 405 responses.

As you can see, 79% of our respondents indicated that they thought the proposal being considered was a good idea or that it did not matter either way. 

8.4% indicated that they thought it was not a good idea. 

The remaining 12.6% (the grey-ish slivers on the pie chart above) indicated “other”, and the comments from those responses without any identifying information are available if you’d like to read them at THIS LINK.


Based on a number of factors, we will be proceeding as follows with regard to the holidays.

  1. The current school year calendar has students in school on Monday 12/21 and Tuesday 12/22 before beginning the break on Wednesday 12/23. We will be closing schools on 12/21 and 12/22 in order to provide families with two (2) full weeks of time away from school during the holiday season. For students who attend Stafford Technical Center, we will be notifying STC that MRU students will not be in school those two days.
  2. The week of Monday 1/4/2021 – Friday 1/8/2021 will be a fully remote week of school for all students. There will be no in-person instruction occurring that week. We will plan to return to in-person instruction schedules currently in place on Monday 1/11/2021. For students who attend Stafford Technical Center, MRU administration will work with STC administration to determine whether MRU students attend STC in-person during that week or learn remotely. MRU will have that information for you as soon as a determination has been made.
  3. Meals will be accessible for interested families to pick up on the schedule below. Specific time windows will be determined and shared with you as soon as we have them.
  • Monday, December 21 at MRU.
  • Monday, December 28 at MRU.
  • Monday, January 4 at MRU.     We do anticipate that 5 days worth of meals will be available for pickup each of those days.

We realize that these plans are significant. We value having our students and staff in person and see this as the best way to approach the holidays in order to ensure that we keep as many people in person for the long term. Ultimately, our goal is to inject certainty into an uncertain time period and provide enough time for families and staff to plan and make arrangements as needed.

If you have any questions please feel free to reach out.

Thanks,

Dave


December 9, 2020

MRUUSD Community,

This email contains:

  • Current status update
  • Current thinking
  • Survey request – please respond as soon as you are able

As we are in the midst of the winter holiday season, I’d like to update you on our status with school operations in the post-Thanksgiving period. Depending on the school, between 10-22% of our students were required to quarantine based on Thanksgiving week multi-family gathering activities. We have now seen our first positive COVID-19 case in our schools, at CES, and have one classroom learning remotely but scheduled to return in-person on Tuesday, December 15th.

As we look forward to the rest of the holiday season we have received strong signals from the state that the multi-household directive will remain in place, and we do have concerns that the dynamics in play around the holidays may place even more students and their families, as well as district staff, in challenging situations related to quarantine.

We are contemplating whether or not setting aside the first week of school after the break (from January 4th – January 8th) as a remote learning period would be an effective means to safeguard our students and staff in the post-holiday window while injecting some certainty into the holiday season for families as they make decisions. If we did, the intent would be to return to our current in-person models on Monday January 11th.

The collective perspective of MRUUSD families is a valuable set of information for us to have as we contemplate the best path for the district through the holiday season. In the same way, we believe that our families knowing in advance what will be happening will assist families in their own planning. If a decision is reached on this question we would intend to inform you as much in advance as possible.

If you are a MRUUSD family (have students in our schools), please complete the survey that can be found at the link below. It asks for your feelings about the concept being contemplated as well as about meals being provided for students during the break. The survey will remain open until 6:00 am Friday morning.

Link to Survey:
https://forms.gle/vkpJnzLdSz44iXdA9
 

Thank you in advance for your feedback to help inform our planning. It is appreciated.

Sincerely,

Dave


November 24, 2020

Mill River Schools Community,

In this important memo, please find:

  • Review of new guidance from the state
  • Very important change to screening process

Yesterday, the Vermont Secretary of Education issued new guidance to schools related to the Governor’s updated Executive Order regarding multiple household gatherings. The state defines multiple household gatherings as those involving people who live in different homes. For more clarity on the guidance and the order please check out the following:

https://education.vermont.gov/sites/aoe/files/documents/edu-guidance-for-schools-related-to-limits-on-multi-household-social-gatherings.pdf

https://governor.vermont.gov/sites/scott/files/documents/ADDENDUM%208%20TO%20AMENDED%20AND%20RESTATED%20EXECUTIVE%20ORDER%2001-20_0.pdf

Specifically, the guidance and the Executive Order prohibit multiple households from participating in the same social gatherings, including group trips; gatherings related to ceremonies, holiday events, parties and celebrations; and sharing accommodations with anyone outside your household. Schools have been directed to consider these limits on multi-household social gatherings an extension of the state’s travel guidance, requiring quarantine. 

In the Governor’s press conference today, he made it clear that schools are required to include a question with our daily health screening protocols regarding multi-household gatherings and also required to direct people to quarantine in alignment with the state’s travel guidelines if they have participated in multiple household gatherings. This requirement means that all students and staff who have been involved in multiple household gatherings will be required to stay away from school for a quarantine period of 14 days, or 7 days with a negative COVID test. 

It is very important that MRUUSD families, students and staff be aware that the multiple household question will be added to our screening protocols on Monday, November 30th. 

Please be aware that each of our personal decisions and the responses to the new screening question can impact our collective ability to operate and access in-person school.

If you have any questions, please let me know.

Respectfully,

Dave

Note:    The Executive Order also states that individuals who live alone may gather with no more than one other household. Further, nothing in the Order requires anyone to remain in a dangerous, unhealthy or otherwise unsafe household; likewise, nothing in the Order prevents someone from taking in, housing, sheltering or assisting another individual or individuals to relieve them of a dangerous, unhealthy or otherwise unsafe household.


November 20, 2020

Mill River Schools Community,

Last Friday I shared with you that I sensed things escalating in the COVID context and advised that we would all be wise to mentally and logistically plan for the possibility of remote learning on the horizon. Since then, we have seen several record-high days of new cases in Vermont, an increase in deaths (even locally in Rutland), and Vermont currently possesses the nation’s 2nd highest virus reproduction rate – which means that when a person contracts the virus in Vermont they have a likelihood of passing it on to more people than they would in every other state in the nation besides Maine.

I spoke with our board members in public session Wednesday evening to hear their thinking in order to help inform my own. The message I heard clearly from our Board was that we all want to keep students and staff in school as long as we can safely, and that when things begin trending in the wrong direction we should make a move. I completely agree with the Board’s sentiments and that thinking drives my decision-making. 

At this precise moment in time we are still doing things safely in our schools. By following the guidelines that we are required to follow, our students, support staff, teachers and administrators have been keeping our schools safe. We are proud of that effort. But, schools are not necessarily a refuge from society. They are instead a reflection of society. That means that everything that goes on in a given community eventually finds its way into our schools.

The best, most immediate examples of that are the current positive cases in schools in Rutland. It will not surprise you that our communities are interconnected in many ways. We have ties to those schools that create a tangled web of quarantine and potential virus spread that cause us to believe that we will not be able to keep the virus out of our schools for long. It is closing in on us every day. And, what ultimately may force us into remote learning might not be positive cases in schools. It might be the fact that critical school district employees will not be available for work due to required quarantines or positive cases in their immediate families that affect their availability.

The good news is that if the time comes to shift to remote learning we are very prepared. It is my hope that if that decision has to be made that we will have a little bit of lead time, but we cannot be sure of that depending on the dynamics of the situation. It continues to be important for all MRUUSD families to prepare for the possibility.

The bad news is that our ability to remain at school is now out of the schools’ hands. We will be able to remain with students and staff at school for as long as our community’s actions allow us to. We’ve all seen the Governor and other statewide authorities make very clear the importance of not socializing with people outside our households, not traveling during the holidays, and being as careful as we can be over the next few months with masks, distancing, and hand hygiene. To our community members who choose to disregard those expectations – we have noticed. Please consider a change of heart and behavior and hold yourself and your families accountable for protecting us all. 

Sacrifice for the common good is baked into the foundation of our nation. We should do our best to keep it that way, and in a local sense, community sacrifice for the common good gives us the best shot at remaining open for as long as possible. We are all tired of the pandemic, but it still has lots of energy to burn and our vigilance matters now more than ever. 

Under the best circumstances, you won’t hear from me again until the week after Thanksgiving. Hoping for that to be the case, I wish you and your immediate family a safe, healthy and happy holiday next week. 

Sincerely,

Dave


November 13, 2020

Mill River Schools Community,

I must be very frank with you as I send this message. Exactly 8 months ago, on Friday March 13th, the Governor held a press conference during which many of us in educational leadership expected that schools might be closed due to a pandemic that was starting to surge across the country. That did not happen at that press conference, but within two days that decision had been made, and our schools were closed to in-person instruction on Monday March 16th.

Regretfully, as I am typing this message the mood in the air feels much the same as it did precisely 8 months ago. We do know a great deal more about the virus now. We know how to try to limit its impact. And yet, it is still accelerating across the country and New England and Vermont seem to have lost the insulation we enjoyed for much of the summer. In our own communities we have friends and neighbors who continue to gather in groups, refuse to wear masks (or wear then properly), and are of the belief that there is no real threat. 

My message to you today is this: Because of where we are right now, we have no idea what happens next, and we need to be prepared for things to possibly move quickly.

Some districts across the state have already made decisions to return to remote learning or are contemplating it right now. Some school boards are pressuring their superintendents to make that decision immediately. That has not happened here yet, but it is a conversation that I intend to have with our school board to help inform my decision-making. If we find ourselves back in a remote learning scenario, we are absolutely aware of the impacts on families from the standpoint of child care and work availability. We do understand very clearly what it means to our community to not have our students physically in school. 

In terms of our thinking at this specific moment:

  • We want to keep our students and staff physically in school as long as we possibly can – as long as we can do it safely without risk.
  • If we do have to return to remote learning our students and staff are very ready and know very well what to do in that situation.
  • There is no telling what steps may be taken at a state level with regard to in-person schooling or in what ways the Health Guidelines that we have to follow might be further revised to be even safer, affecting the way that schools operate in-person. 
  • It would be very wise for all of us to mentally and practically prepare for the possibility that a window of remote learning is on the horizon. I’m not sure how fast we are traveling toward that horizon, but the conditions around us are definitely moving in that direction. Thinking about our own personal arrangements in schools and homes is timely work to do right now. We strongly encourage you to plan for the possibility.
  • Please take seriously, for your own health and that of your children, families and neighbors, the directives coming out of state government regarding travel and quarantines. Please understand that decisions you make as an individual or family regarding travel have a direct impact on access to school due to required quarantines. Please avoid groups. Please wear your masks and stay distanced from people who are not in your immediate family. Please remind your children of the importance of these actions. Please do everything you can so that we can manage these emerging circumstances as best as possible.

Thank you,

Dave


November 6, 2020

Mill River Schools Families, Faculty and Staff –

Please see the letter linked below that outlines important considerations for us all as the winter holidays approach, particularly around the topic of travel.

This information has been shared with us by the Vermont Department of Health and is very important to consider, as different decisions can affect access to school and the workplace in different ways.

Sincerely,

Dave

Community Travel Letter 11.6.2020.pdf 


October 29, 2020

Mill River Schools Community,

Two updates for you today regarding:

  • Travel
  • Snow/Weather Days

Please be reminded that if travel occurs to areas that require quarantine upon return that your student will be required to follow all expectations from the State of Vermont in terms of quarantine and access to school. As the holidays approach, we will all be faced with personal decisions in that regard, and those decisions make this holiday season challenging for us all. 

Please exercise caution as we all work together to protect our school community and the broader community. It is appreciated.

The weather tomorrow morning looks to be a bit interesting. Here’s the big picture on weather days for this year:

  • We do plan to call “remote learning days” on bad weather days when we can reasonably do so with advance notice. Advance notice is necessary because we’d like all students and staff to have what they need including time to prepare as best as possible. We expect that those types of decisions will be made by approximately 2pm at the latest the day prior. That will occur when storms are coming that are all but guaranteed to be a problem.
  • For days like tomorrow, we will have to rely on the possibility of a “traditional snow day” call if something happens. There are so many variables – how wet the snow is, whether road crews and plows and sand/salt are ready, and the actual conditions on the ground at decision-time as we project the impacts into the morning commute.
  • In terms of the process for those morning-of decisions, at about 4am we are on the phone with road commissioners to receive ongoing reports. By 4:30 I am also connecting with all of the surrounding superintendents to discuss their circumstances and keep watching the online projections as they develop. The goal is usually to have made a decision by 5:15, and if that decision requires communication to families and staff to have that communication go out around 5:30. There are always exceptions, but that’s the general approach.

So…when it comes to tomorrow, our MRU students and staff are already remote. They are all set. Elementary families, if you do not hear from me by around 5:30 assume that all is normal. That communication takes place through phone and email, so if you do not receive the School Messenger phone call please check with your school’s administrative assistant to ensure that we have the proper phone information in the system for you.

Thanks,

Dave


October 16, 2020

Mill River Schools Community,

We are at the stage in our return to in-person planning where you are likely hearing a good deal from your individual schools. If that is not the case, please reach out to your school office directly.

Otherwise – I will keep this email very brief. Two key topics today:

1. Remote Learning Option

2. Meals Information

Our survey closed yesterday for families to identify whether they wish to have students remain in remote learning when we return in-person. Roughly 8% of our students will be remaining in remote learning under the parameters shared with you previously.

Teachers, principals and schools are connecting now (or already have) with those families to ensure that necessary details are in place.

One question I have received from a few families which is worth sharing is this one: If my child returns in-person but something changes, either with our family situation or concerns that I may have, can I remove them from in-person learning and revert back to remote? It’s a great question. The answer is straightforward. Yes. Please keep reading for full context.

The Safe and Health Schools Guidelines that we are required to follow strictly define the social distancing that we have to maintain. Classrooms are being set up according to those rules. Once those classrooms are set, any changes in terms of increasing numbers of students can have dramatic impacts to class locations and even how we assign staff. So, class configurations need to remain relatively static. This is the reason why we have asked remote learning families to commit to at least January 25th to keep classroom arrangements stable. Adding students to a class can be a problem. Removing them is not a problem

So – it can be feasible for a family to decide to stop in-person learning and revert to remote learning if needed. If that occurs, it would be under the parameters of how the remote learning system is working and with a commitment to remain remote at least until January 25th.

Put another way – we can make it work for your child to start in-person and go back to remote. We cannot make it work to start remote and go back to in-person, at least until that January 25th date is approaching when we will be recalibrating to see where we are and design accordingly.

With students returning to in-person learning, an update on meals access is necessary:

Everyone:

  1. ALL meals for students will continue to be FREE, whether in person OR picked up
  2. Meals will continue to be available for pick up at the following sites:

                  MRU – Monday & Thursday: 7:00 am to 1:00 pm AND 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm

                  TMS  – Monday & Thursday: 8:00 am to 2:00 pm

                  SMS – Monday & Thursday: 7:00 am to 12:00 pm

For Elementary Students:

  1. Meals will be available daily for students who are learning in person at school starting 10/19/20
  2. Meals for elementary remote learners will still be available for pickup at MRU, TES, and SMS according to the above schedule.  Families can pick up at any of these sites.

For MRU Students:

  1. Students receiving IEP services at MRU will continue to have meals available to them in person from 10/19 – 11/2/20
  2. Starting 11/2/20, meals will be available on the days that students are in attendance (Monday/Thursday and Tuesday/Friday) 
  3. Students that attend Monday/Thursday will be able to take three meals home with them on Mondays to cover days that they are remote
  4. Students that attend Tuesday/Friday will be able to take three meals home with them on Tuesdays to cover days that they are remote

Have a great weekend, and we’re looking forward to seeing our PreK-4th students in person next Monday!

Dave


October 12th, 2020

Mill River Schools Families,

This is email is only intended for families who are choosing to have their student(s) remain in remote learning when in-person learning resumes in the MRUUSD.

All families whose child(ren) will be returning in-person can ignore this email.

If your child(ren) will be remaining in remote learning, please complete the survey linked below. DUE DATE IS THURSDAY 10/15/2020 at 3:00 PM.

After this data has been collected on 10/15/2020, families opting for remote learning can expect to hear from their specific schools directly on Friday 10/16/2020.

Thank you,

Dave

Remote Learning Survey Link

https://forms.gle/zKSo9wwmdv5orKCV6


October 9, 2020

12:00 pm

Mill River Schools Community,

Please review the attached document. It is very long, but has extensive information about our plans for the return to in-person learning in the MRUUSD.

Thanks,

Dave

MRUUSD-Reopening-Details-10.9.2020.pdf


October 2, 2020

Mill River Schools Community,

This is essentially a repeat of the email shared with you on Monday of this week. A decision regarding return to in-person school and associated details will be shared next Friday, 10/9/2020.

Please take a few minutes to complete the survey linked below if you have not already. It will be remain open until 3:00 pm today.

The survey is intended to gather information about your intentions for your child(ren) when the MRUUSD does return to in-person instruction.

This survey does not indicate a commitment on your part. A follow-up survey to be issued the week of 10/12/2020 will seek a commitment and will provide more detail to assist you in that decision-making.

Thank you,

Dave

Survey Link:

https://forms.gle/JYNcsxuTdikMggEi6


September 28, 2020

Mill River Schools Community,

Please take a few minutes to complete the survey linked below. It will be open until Friday 10/2/2020 at 9:00am.

The survey is intended to gather information about your intentions for your child(ren) when the MRUUSD returns to in-person instruction.

This survey does not indicate a commitment on your part. A follow-up survey to be issued the week of 10/12/2020 will seek a commitment and will provide more detail to assist you in that decision-making.

Thank you,

Dave

Survey Link:

https://forms.gle/JYNcsxuTdikMggEi6


September 25, 2020

Mill River Schools Community,

Today’s update includes information about reopening considerations, travel, and student health.

Reopening Considerations

We are in the midst of contemplating scenarios for a return to in-person instruction for our students and staff. We believe that the decision to open the school year remotely was absolutely the right decision to maintain our student and staff safety, but that it is important for us to identify paths to bring at the very least our youngest learners back to the in-person environment if virus conditions remain stable around us. When thinking about this decision, there are a few baseline assumptions that play into it:

  1. Continued stable or improving virus data 
  2. Availability of staff to deliver in-person instruction and ability to implement health guidelines.
  3. In-person instruction continuing to utilize weekly module-based planning and instructional delivery, allowing for an easy shift into remote learning if/when needed
  4. Remote Option: Families of students who are returning to in-person instruction having the choice to remain fully remote for a determined amount of time with the understanding that weekly modules will continue to be delivered and that access to teachers may be limited as compared to the current remote model, since our focus would be shifting to in-person instruction. 

The concept currently being contemplated would focus on phasing in the return of students starting with our youngest elementary students and working our way up to our oldest students in a prescribed fashion over time. The timeline for communication and information about a decision remains set for October 9th. Prior to that, principals have been and will be seeking feedback from families about how the remote experience is progressing and what supports families will need either way: if we remain remote or transition to in-person learning. 

Early next week I will be sharing a survey with families that will asks for information about which families, upon a return to in-person instruction, would still be seeking to keep their children learning remotely. That information will help us to develop our overall approach. The survey responses next week will not be a commitment on your part.

But, another planned survey to be issued after the October 9th decision date will ask for a commitment from families that choose to have their children remain learning remotely. That survey would be accompanied by solid details on the differences between the remote and in-person options in order to assist families in making decisions.

Final note on this topic: Whatever form of in-person learning is ultimately implemented, we will be prepared for the likelihood that a change in virus conditions locally or a change in statewide status as determined by the Agency of Education and Department of Health could require us to close down in-person instruction in the district or see schools closed to in-person instruction statewide as they were last spring. We do believe that there is a strong likelihood that this may happen, and the solid remote learning foundation we have built this fall will serve our students well if/when that becomes a reality. We maintain hope that it won’t happen, but we will be more prepared for it because of the approach we took to start this school year. I am sharing this with you now in order to reinforce the reality that returning to in-person school, when it occurs, does not mean that the threat of school closure is gone. In fact, the colder the weather gets the more that threat will increase. Please keep that in mind as you make family decisions and arrangements in the coming months.

Travel Considerations

First, please read this article from today’s Rutland Herald that discusses our neighbors to the west.

Slate Valley Article

Next, please take a look at the map available on the VT Agency of Commerce and Community Development website that outlines areas where travel is restricted and subsequent quarantine in VT is required.

Travel Map

This is not much of an issue for us at this exact moment with most of our students and staff working remotely, but it has in fact popped for us even under our limited in-person circumstances. If/when we return to in-person learning as our primary means of school, awareness and compliance with these state expectations will be even more important for us. Please pay very close attention to your family travel decisions moving forward, and make sure that you are accessing up to date information before you make travel decisions that might trigger a mandatory quarantine. 

Student Health

Please keep in mind that the ultimate dynamics of the health guidelines that we must follow to work through the pandemic are as follows:

  • Facial covering
  • Social distance
  • Hand hygiene
  • Stay home when sick

These will continue to be very important for the foreseeable future.  In terms of staying home when sick, when we do return to in-person learning please stay on top of reporting your student’s attendance in accordance with the school’s protocols. The pandemic has required us to dedicate considerable staff time and energy to management, follow-up and communication regarding students and staff absences due to illness in order to keep our data ready and organized for state contact tracing when it is ultimately needed. The complexity of that process requires that we have clean data at the front end. This means, on the family side, punctuality and accurate communication is critical to us keeping our schools as healthy as possible when we do return.

It is necessary for you to be fully aware that under the health guidelines students who do not pass health screenings are not permitted to enter the school bus or school, with no exceptions. Students who have to leave school with symptoms that match the very long list of possible COVID symptoms will be sent home without debate. We are required to be very, very strict in these matters and will follow the guidelines that we have to meet to the letter in this regard. The best course of action if your child has any symptoms of illness at all is to keep them home, contact your physician, communicate with the school, and follow the guidelines provided by the school in terms of how long your child must remain at home under their specific circumstances.

I hope that this information is helpful, and that you have a fantastic weekend.

Sincerely,

Dave


September 18, 2020

Mill River Schools Community,

Today’s update focuses on three areas for your information:

1. Reminder (locations and times) for meals pickup.

2. MRU Sports Status Update

3. School Reopening Decision Timeline and Considerations

—–

This is a review of previous information received. Our meals pickup opportunities for all individuals aged 18 and under in the community continue to operate.

Pickup locations and times are as follows:

MRU – Monday & Thursday: 7:00 am to 1:00 pm AND 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm

TMS  – Monday & Thursday: 8:00 am to 2:00 pm

SMS – Monday & Thursday: 7:00 am to 12:00 pm

Families are able to pick up at any of the locations regardless of where children attend school in our district. Example – you have a child at SMS and a child at MRU. You can pickup up for both at either location. Please be advised that we do have to document names of students that you are picking up for in order to meet the state and federal requirements.

—–

MRU Fall Sports are underway currently with teams practicing and coaches and athletes following strict health protocols as outlined by the Agency of Education and Department of Health. Competitions are not able to occur until state leadership makes the determination that schools are considered to be at Step 3 of the state’s COVID status designations. Once that designation is announced we anticipate that there will be perhaps a one week notice before it goes into effect. 

In the context of sports and our status as a school district that started the school year in remote learning, MRU will not be permitting spectators to attend athletic contests. The two schools in southern VT that share the remote learning / no spectator status are Mill River Union and Mount Anthony Union. We have intentionally scheduled more away events for our teams in order to provide athletic parents options for watching events. We will also be live streaming our home events and will have PEG-TV on site in order to make our home athletic contests accessible to view.

Our school board did receive contact from a few community members about the “no spectator” decision and had a public discussion about the topic during Wednesday night’s board meeting. A motion was made and voted upon, and through the outcome of that vote the “no spectator” decision made by our administrators was upheld by the board. 

—–

The reopening of in-person school decision is on our radar daily as we look ahead to that decision. You may recall that my communication issued on July 31 informing the community of the remote learning decision indicated that I was targeting the date of October 9, 2020 for a decision about our status for November. The purpose of the October 9th date is to provide families and teachers with ample lead time to prepare for whatever November may bring. We know that everything about school in a pandemic is more difficult for everyone, and time to prepare is important.

As that date approaches, there are several factors I am monitoring to help provide background information:

  • Rutland county cases
  • Statewide cases
  • Surrounding district experiences in various in-person, remote and hybrid formats
  • Health/nursing data from our in-person operations
  • Attendance data for students and staff from our in-person operations
  • Availability of bus drivers and custodians

While these are not the only factors considered, they hopefully give you a sense of the type of lens being applied to the considerations. My commitment to you is that I will communicate with you weekly (generally on Fridays) and follow the timelines that have been established for the decision.

—–

Thank you,

Dave


September 4, 2020

Mill River Schools Community Members,

This will be the final update from my office before the school year officially begins. I do hope that you have a peaceful and relaxing Labor Day weekend coming up. I am excited for our students and staff – there is a palpable energy in the air that we all love about the start of school. Even though this school year is beginning in very unique ways, we are ready to get things started.

I’d like to thank you for your patience as we have navigated the path to September 8th. We know that there will be more bumps ahead, but we also know that the COVID experience will eventually come to an end. As you know, our goal all along has been to be as safe and strategic as possible about how the school year commences and plays out over time.

Important Meals Information

We are able to continue providing meals for all individuals aged 18 and under in our communities. 

Next week (Labor Day and the first week of school) pickups will be on TUESDAY and THURSDAY.

After next week pickups will revert to MONDAY and THURSDAY.

Pickup locations and times have changed and are as follows:

MRU – 7:00 am to 1:00 pm AND 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm

TMS  – 8:00 am to 2:00 pm

SMS – 7:00 am to 12:00 pm

Families are able to pick up at any of the locations regardless of where child(ren) your attend(s) school. Example – you have a child at SMS and a child at MRU. You can pickup up for both at either location. Please be advised that we do have to document names of students that you are picking up for in order to meet the state and federal requirements.

Have a great weekend,

Dave


September 1, 2020

Mill River Schools Community,

We are continuing to work on the design for our meals access for students for the start of the school year. 

The process is complicated by federal and state regulations that play out in different ways based on the time of year, system of delivery, locations, etc. We wish it were simpler, but it is not. Things are happening at the federal and state level as I type this email, and I believe that in the next day or so we will have much better clarity for our families on what the system will look like, at least until December 31, 2020. We believe that the shifts that are occurring will be very positive.

We are envisioning (based on recent state and federal developments) to be able to continue with a model that looks very much like this summer’s model.

We are hoping to be able to add pickup locations at SMS and TMS in addition to MRU. Times TBD.

We anticipate that Monday/Thursday will continue to be the days for pickup, with an exception next week due to the holiday on Monday.

We believe, and are working to confirm, that we will continue to be able to provide meals for all residents aged 18 and under who live in our communities.

Details are not firm yet, but I will inform you as soon as they are. Thank you for your patience and understanding as these late changes will hopefully provide us with more flexible opportunities to provide meals for the young people in our district.

Sincerely,

Dave


August 28, 2020

Mill River Schools Community,

This week’s update will be brief. Topics covered include:

1. Meals

2. Prep for Start of the Year

3. Elementary Meet & Greet FYIs

4. Childcare Resource

We are still sorting out details related to federal regulations for meal provision for students once the school year begins. We still envision continuing twice weekly pickup opportunities and providing free meals to students eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch. Meals will also be made available for other families (those not eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch) who choose to purchase them. We anticipate that meals will be able to be picked up at MRU, SMS and TMS. As soon as details are very firm they will be shared with you.

The last day for our summer meal pickup program (available to all children aged 18 and under in our community) will be Thursday September 3rd.

Our school district employees have been hard at work this week engaged in training and preparation for the start of the school year. If you have specific questions about the school your child attends please contact the school directly either by phone or email to the principal or office administrative assistant. We still have a handful of employee positions in the district that we are working to fill and do hope to have those settled sooner rather than later.

Elementary schools are all planning some form of small, carefully-managed, outdoor meet & greet opportunities for students, families and teachers toward the end of next week. For families who will be participating in those, please be aware that we will be conducting health screenings as required by the health guidelines we need to follow for all participants. This will include having temperatures taken and COVID-exposure questions asked. Please arrive slightly earlier than the scheduled time for those sessions in order to allow for adequate screening time. Specific information on those activities will be provided by your school principals.

The Rutland Recreation Program has made information available to the community for those who are interested in childcare options for the start of the school year (see attachment below). We will continue to share this type of information with you when we receive it, generally through email and social media.

Rutland Rec Program.pdf 

Have a great weekend,

Dave


August 21, 2020

Mill River Schools Community,

Today’s update focuses on two topics:

  • Lunch/Meals provision once school begins
  • FYI – Faculty and Staff schedule overview beginning next week

We continue to provide meals available for pickup at MRU (front door) on Mondays and Thursday from 7:00am-5:00pm. This will continue through the summer with Thursday, September 3rd as the last summer meals pickup day. Those meals are available for all district children aged 18 and under.

Once the school years begins for students (September 8th) we will continue to have meals available during our Remote Learning startup. We may follow the same schedule for pickup in terms of days of the week (currently Monday/Thursday). We may need to adjust the times due to availability of staff (TBD). The locations will decentralize, and we are forecasting that meals will be available for pickup still at MRU, but also at Shrewsbury Mountain School and Tinmouth Mountain School. Meals will be free for students that are eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch (this application is available through your school office with registration materials – please complete it, as it is helpful to the district in terms of meal eligibility as well as other funding sources from the federal government). Students who are not eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch can still pick up meals, but they will have to be paid for by the family. Costs and other details will be publicized as soon as they are available. It is a fair assumption that various choices and food selections will not be available in this meal provision process. The details around this process involve federal and state regulations, and we are working through those now so that we can provide you with clear and accurate details when the time comes.

For your information only, our faculty and staff are returning to school next week to begin official preparations for the student start on September 8th. Most of the work is remote or virtual, but there will be some in-person sessions depending on the location, topic and group size/dynamics.

The general schedule of employee events during the next two weeks is as follows:

August 24th        New Teacher Orientation & District Overview

August 25th        New Teacher Orientation – Principal & Mentor Mtgs                            

August 27th        District Opening Inservice      

August 28th        Staff Trainings

August 31st        Staff Trainings                  

September 1st    School-based Meetings and Training                        

September 2nd   School-based Teacher Prep & Possible Student Orientation            

September 3rd    School-based Teacher Prep & Possible Student Orientation            

September 4th    School-based Teacher Prep & Possible Student Orientation   

September 7th    Labor Day Holiday

September 8th    First Day of School for Students   

As always, if you have questions please feel free to direct them to the principal who might best answer them or send them my way.

Have a good weekend,

Dave


August 14, 2020

Mill River Schools Community,

Today’s update includes a few details that have emerged for this week and a list of questions and responses regarding our Remote Learning decision-making that may be of interest to you.

1. We are contemplating in the next week soliciting volunteers from the community that may be interested in supporting students as unpaid, volunteer tutors during our remote learning period of school. The concept we are working on would involve the district generating a contact list of willing community volunteers that we would be able to certify have passed background checks and review against the child sexual abuse registry. We would not be able to vouch for the quality or availability of any volunteer in this capacity. Responsibility for contacting an individual and making arrangements would lie with families. The process of generating this information will take some time due to the background check process, but as soon as we have something available to share we will do so.

2. You should be receiving information from your local school and principal regularly at this time regarding how things are solidifying for the start of the school year. If you are not receiving that information, or information that answers your questions, please reach out immediately to your principal at the following email addresses:

CES – fvalastro@millriverschools.org

MRU – tweideman@millriverschools.org

SMS – jruck@millriverschools.org

TMS – mfitzgerald-riker@millriverschools.org

WES – dbetts@millriverschools.org

3. The state issued its guidance regarding fall sports for middle and high schools this week. For those who are interested, MRU leadership is meeting with coaches today (Friday) and will be sharing information with students and families and beginning athlete registration next week. Sports are occurring, but with significant restrictions. Please contact kmaniery@millriverschools.org with questions specific to MRU athletics.

4. Related to our IEP students who will be accessing services in-person starting 9/8/2020, the determination has been made that those services for all students who are accessing them will be based out of Mill River Union. This affords us the best scenario to organize our students, staff, and safety and health protocols well. For families who are involved with that, you can expect continued communication from our special education leadership on those details.

5. You may be interested in a follow-up set of FAQs related to our Remote Learning decision. That information is presented here for your reference. It is also attached as a pdf to this email and will be posted on our website with our other Reopening information.

Remote Learning FAQ, v2

8/14/2020

What data, research, and evidence has been used by the district to aid in making the decision to implement remote learning? Why are we the only district in the state not offering in person options? 

There are conflicting studies, variable reporting, political maneuverings regarding reopening, and legitimate concerns about the health and well being of students and staff. We are not the only district in the state engaging in a remote start or a version of a remote start. We believe that districts in the state may find themselves thrust into remote learning sooner rather than later by virus conditions. We intend to be prepared for that, by starting conservatively and remotely.

What practices at other academic institutions have been researched and analyzed in order to develop a high-quality, remote instruction plan for implementation within our district? 

Our in-house curriculum leaders, led by Dr. Andrew Jones, are designing our professional development systems as we navigate how to best provide instruction statewide in the pandemic. Locally, our work administratively since March has been focused on how to best deliver and design remote learning options, given that we were executing a hybrid system from March-June and planning for a hybrid instructional environment for August, which would have seen our students in grades 7-12 in school two days per week and at home three days per week. Teacher training time at the end of last school year and seven days this coming year before school begins are and will be focused in this arena. Principals and teacher teams are working now to design the details so that solid information can be shared with parents, sooner rather than later. On the whole, our decision to open remotely was made and shared prior to the start of August for the specific purpose of allowing families and educators all of the time they would need to plan and prepare for this undertaking. 

Has the district consulted directly with the Vermont Department of Health or Agency of Education on the decision to begin the academic year in remote learning? Were we advised by the Vermont Department of Health to begin the school year in remote learning?

The state, through the Agency of Education, has indicated clearly that school districts have the option to choose among three different “instructional dispositions” at the start of the school year. Each of those options is considered by the state to be valid and acceptable. Those include Fully Remote, Hybrid, and In-Person. Our decision after careful consideration of all state health and safety guidelines, state decision-making guidelines, and state regulations and statutes, was to choose the acceptable disposition of Fully Remote.

Regarding the Department of Health, our obligation is to consult with VDH when we have a case or cases of COVID-19 in schools that are already open to in-person instruction. The “instructional disposition” that we choose as a district as the way to start the school year is not linked or tied to VDH consultation. This decision-making is in alignment with statute, regulations, and the guidance issued to school districts by the Agency of Education.

When we are open to in-person instruction and face a COVID-19 case (or cases) internally, our superintendent will consult with the VDH as required, hear their feedback, and make a decision about closing a school or all schools. This process is directly addressed in the guidance issued to school districts.

How is the district providing an equal education to the children who will be attempting to learn via distance learning on electronic devices, with no in person interactions with either classmates or teachers — when other elementary age students throughout Vermont are being afforded the opportunity for in person instruction? How will remote learning provide children with substantially equal educational opportunities compared to elementary children in other districts throughout the state that are choosing to offer in person instruction options?

Answering this question requires an assumption that different delivery models are inherently unequal. 

If we do extend the logic that different equates to unequal, we must acknowledge that some districts are bringing back all of their students in person. Most school districts in Vermont are utilizing a hybrid (part-remote, part in-person) system. We are opening remotely. 

We do believe that in-person school is indeed better for instructional purposes than other options. But, there is great risk that an in-person start falls apart with one case of COVID-19 in schools and that schools will be thrust quickly and without preparation into remote learning. There is also the reality that pandemic-driven in-person instruction with masks, social distancing, enhanced sanitation, health screenings, etc. will feel very far from the expected typical school experience and may do more harm to students than good, both instructionally and emotionally. 

Going further, we might assert that the second best option instructionally for students is fully-remote learning, which we are utilizing under these circumstances due to health and safety, consistency of delivery purposes, lessened risk, and the inherent need for systemic flexibility required in a pandemic. 

An argument can then be made that the least good option instructionally and for consistency’s sake could be the hybrid environment, which most of the school districts in the state are utilizing, due to variable patterns and systems of engagement for students, educators, and families.. 

Following this logic and the assumption of inequality inherent in this question, every district that approaches this problem differently in Vermont is potentially creating a situation that someone, somewhere might choose to interpret as substantially unequal.

We do believe that the path we have chosen is the safest, most stable, and most productive instructional choice to make for our students under pandemic circumstances in order to safely get to the desired in-person instructional model sooner rather than later, and to be able to stay in that disposition when it does arrive.

Why was the decision to begin the school year via remote learning made PRIOR to the planned survey on August 3 of families preferences for in person vs remote instruction? Why did you not afford families the opportunity to respond to the survey, and then consider those responses before making this decision?

We were planning for a hybrid instructional environment as was forecasted in the email communications received by parents from the district. That was based on most of our students being in-person at school. Knowing that some parents would not want their children to return in-person, a survey was planned for August 3rd to identify those overall numbers and desired locations of students in order for teachers to be able to plan for who would actually be where and figure out how to deliver instruction both in-person and remotely based on student needs. The purpose of that survey was not going to be to help the district make a decision about in-person vs. remote. The purpose was going to be to figure out who was staying at home when others returned.

As circumstances continued to unfold nationally and locally, our decision made at the end of July negated the need for a survey to identify who wanted to stay home, as all of our students (with the exception of IEP students who choose to access in-person IEP supports) will be served remotely to start the school year. Once the school year is up and running and we continue to focus on a return to in-person instruction, we will likely issue that originally-planned August 3rd survey at some point in order to assess who will be sending students to school for in-person instruction and to help us to navigate the structural and staffing aspects of that information. 

What steps will be taken to address my children’s social, cognitive, and behavioral development? How will the teachers evaluate and assist my children in these developmental areas when they are unable to observe my children in a classroom environment for several hours each day?

Our principals are currently working with teachers and counselors to ensure that the fabric that connects school and family is solid during our remote learning time. Predictable synchronous learning sessions, regular scheduled check-ins with students and families, opportunities for additional counseling as needed, and intended parent workshops (online) focused on how to best navigate online learning are a part of what we are working on to address these needs. As is always the case, if parents/guardians identify needs in their own children related to social, cognitive, academic, and behavioral development, we ask that parents share information with us so that we can help and assist with the resources we have available to us. We also anticipate that children’s parents/guardians will be making their own family and social-based efforts to attend to their children’s social, cognitive and behavioral functioning.

What are my education tax dollars being used for — specifically in regards to my children’s distance learning experience? Will funds still be allocated to the maintenance and operation of the buildings, grounds, vehicles, non-educator staff and/or anything else that my children will not benefit from during their required remote learning tenure? Will the funds be utilized to provide my children with the instructional materials, classroom supplies, and electronic devices necessary to facilitate their education at home?

Remote learning overall costs slightly less to operate than fully in-person learning. The reason for that is that operating costs of buildings are lessened (lights, heat during the winter, etc.) and less diesel fuel and personnel costs for transportation are utilized. But, education in Vermont tends to have more than 80% of its costs tied up in personnel and benefit costs, and nearly all of our employees work under contracts which are fixed for the school year. All of our employees,  in every position in the district, will be held accountable and kept responsible for earning the dollars that they are paid according to union agreements and individual contracts.

We are entering a fiscal crisis statewide due to decreased revenue during COVID-19 that will dramatically impact budget-building for FY22 and potentially beyond. There are significant shortfalls in the state education fund that have not yet been remedied. This means that every dollar we save (including hiring freezes and utilizing attrition when we can with retirements and resignations, plus operations savings overall) will be able to be applied to future budgets in order to lessen the impact of the pandemic fiscal crisis on our taxpayers. In terms of materials and resources for learning – we will work with each family that indicates inaccessibility to the internet and support them in those efforts. We are inventorying, assembling, and readying devices for appropriate distribution to students who will need them. We do not intend to thrust additional costs on families to maintain the infrastructure of the school environment. Further, we anticipate that the extra costs that we incur as a district due to COVID-19 will generally be reimbursable from federal COVID relief funds.

Remote Learning FAQ, v2.pdf 


August 7, 2020

Mill River Schools Community Members,

Following our announcement last week and FAQ document released on Monday, I do not have any significant new updates to share with you today.

What I would like to do is reiterate our commitment to share information with you when it becomes available regarding resources that may be of assistance to families. We share these via our social media feeds and school-based email lists when we get them, but I’d like to present information collectively for you in this format as well. 

If you are ever looking for information from previous emails I have shared, you can find those on our website at this link: http://millriverschools.org/reopening/ .

Childcare Supports:

Child Care Support Services 

88 Park Street, Rutland 

747-0033- referral

773-4365- financial assistance 

747-0030- specialized child care 

Resources from DCF re: Childcare:

https://mailchi.mp/state/updates-from-the-child-development-division-school-age-child-care-in-the-fall-892601?e=e4c0b3afca

Link to Article re: Local Facebook Group for Supports:

https://www.rutlandherald.com/news/covid19/facebook-group-helps-families-find-child-care-options/article_2c001a5f-c0f1-5e37-acf7-501d4c288342.html

Regarding individual school plans and expectations for opening the school year, you should already be hearing from school principals in some capacity setting the stage. If you are not seeing emails from principals, please reach out to them directly to ensure that your information is correct in our system for communication. I will continue to communicate with you on Fridays as we approach the start to the school year, and more frequently as appropriate.

Principal Contacts:

CES – fvalastro@millriverschools.org

MRU – tweideman@millriverschools.org

SMS – jruck@millriverschools.org

TMS – mfitzgerald-riker@millriverschools.org

WES – dbetts@millriverschools.org

Thank you, and have a great weekend.

Dave


August 3, 2020

Mill River Schools Community,

The purpose of this email is to provide updated information in the form of a Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) list regarding our decision to begin the school year in Remote Learning for the months of September and October.

Before getting to the FAQ, please be aware that previous communication this summer indicated that today, 8.3.2020, was the day we would be surveying families regarding preferences related to in-person vs. remote learning. The announcement we made last week that we would begin the school year in Remote Learning has removed the need to send that survey at this time.

However, there will be a time after the school year has begun when we will be seeking that information from you in addition to further information from you about transportation needs. The reason for that survey, when the time comes, will be to prepare for our eventual return to in-person learning.

Thank you for your attention to this email and the questions and answers that follow.

Dave

MRUUSD Remote Learning FAQs 

August 3, 2020


Have you given any thought to working families and the situation we are all in?

Absolutely, we have. The impact of the pandemic on all working families has been at the forefront of our minds every day since March 15, when the Governor issued orders to close schools. Every day since then has involved considering and feeling the impact of our situation and decisions on students, staff, and families. Making a decision about opening schools back up to in-person instruction vs. staying in remote learning was very difficult, and presented very challenging dynamics regardless of the decision made. Our goal has been to provide accurate information to families with as much lead time as possible in order to allow families time to consider and make arrangements as needed. We do know that this is extremely difficult to manage, no matter how we approach it.

What am I supposed to do about childcare?

This is the hardest question to answer. We simply do not know. We are watching for opportunities that we will be able to pass on to district families that can provide support in our area. We are committed to sharing anything legitimate that we come across that may be helpful for our district families. Childcare is very important to us, for our community and for our employees. This is the reason we expanded our PreK programs last year and offered expanded childcare offerings at that time. We know that it matters. But, the school district is simply not able to solve this problem at this time. It is our hope that employers in the area will identify and consider this issue with their employees and develop means to better support their employees, if possible. As mentioned previously, we will be watching and staying attentive to anything that develops that will be helpful, and are truly sorry for the difficulties that are created by this situation.

What about childcare for essential workers?

This question connects in some ways to the previous childcare question. Regarding essential workers, the information we have received from the state indicates that status as an essential worker was largely tied to the emergency response period of the COVID-19 era during the spring, when it was most important to support the healthcare system and ensure that it was not overburdened and that healthcare staff were available to respond in the emergency period. As a state we are no longer in that emergency period, and the statewide expectation and perceived obligation to provide care for children of essential workers is not a dynamic that is in play at this time. This does not make us feel any better about the ways that we know remote learning impacts families with parents in positions that were deemed essential in the spring. It is still a burden that we know that our families feel. 

Why can we go to restaurants, schools, groceries, etc. but it is not OK to have our kids back in school? The hospital is doing fine, as well.

The simplest answer to this question is that a day at school for a child is remarkably different from a visit to the grocery or a restaurant. The risk of prolonged interactions, proximity that cannot be avoided, and the sheer magnitude of numbers of individuals in schools creates different challenges. What we have seen is that circumstances that bring large numbers of people together indoors, even with precautions taken, result in cases of COVID-19 emerging. Many of our employees are vulnerable, and many of our students live with people who are vulnerable, as well. Comparisons between hospitals and schools in the COVID context (or in any context) miss the mark. Hospitals are places of extreme cleanliness with standardized protocols for managing hygiene and health. Hospitals are professional healthcare workplaces that are built upon these concepts. Schools are filled with children and the adults who are trying to help them learn. Expecting that we would have the ability in schools to maintain a level of safety and cleanliness in line with hospitals, where health care professionals engage in that type of work daily, is unrealistic.

What about the science? Physicians are saying kids 10 and under should be back in-person at school?

Some (not all) doctors are saying that we should be focused on bringing students aged PreK through 10 years old back to in-person school. Some studies support that stance. Others contradict that approach. As you know, our plan for in-person and hybrid learning that will be implemented when we do return to in-person instruction accounts for exactly that. However, that push for children up to 10 years old to be in school is based on the belief that students in that age bracket do not carry or spread the virus the way that students aged 11 and up do. The dialogue supporting this belief has not yet addressed the inherent vulnerabilities of the staff members who are working with those younger students. Additionally, the push for younger students to return to school in-person is also based on the concept that the social and emotional side of school will be restored. To the contrary, we believe that with the current health and safety restrictions involving facial coverings, social distancing, no physical contact, and limited physical and social interactions, the school environment will feel remarkably different from “normal” school and will be overly-constraining to our students as well as incredibly difficult to manage. Some childcare centers and camps, with very controlled attendance quantities and tight protocols, have done well. Others have done poorly. Schools operate in a completely different environment and scale than do child care centers and even reduced-attendance outdoor camps. Any risks faced in those settings are exponentially magnified in a school context.

How will this work with remote learning? I didn’t like it and my child was not successful in the spring.

We fully expect our remote learning systems to be much more structured than the emergency version that we created on the fly this past spring. Parents and students will be able to expect very clear schedules of what will happen and be expected, and when. There should be no wondering about what is going on. Our teachers and support staff will more effectively be engaged with students and families to ensure that this process goes well. You will begin hearing from principals very soon with school-specific detail as things firm up.

What about the importance of in-person school? Why would we do remote? Other places are doing in-person.

There is nothing we would like to see more than every student and staff member in school and in-person on the first day of school. We know that in-person instruction is the most effective way to help students learn and support them. But, we are also in a pandemic, which especially threatens our vulnerable students, staff and community members and will continue to do so until it is no longer an issue. Our decision to begin the year remotely while we take the time to observe what goes on in the surrounding community, refine our practices and protocols, and become very skilled at remote learning (which we are likely to have to utilize at various points in this school year), is the safest and most logical approach for us as a district. Other school districts have made decisions based on what they think is best in their own circumstances. We have done the same in our community.

Why can’t we just bring people into school and deal with cases when they come up?

This is a reasonable question. The answer has to do with what is involved when that type of situation occurs. According to the Health and Safety Guidelines issued by the state, when there is a case of COVID-19 confirmed with an individual who has been in the school, a number of things are required to happen. The spaces that a confirmed individual has occupied have to be closed to any use. Those spaces have to sit unused for 24 hours before cleaning and disinfection begins. Contract tracing will be conducted by the Department of Health and will likely require those who have been in close contact with the individual to face quarantine and not be allowed back in school for the designated period of time that is required. Throughout the process, individuals’ privacy must be protected and maintained at all times. The superintendent is then required to consult with the Department of Health about the case and make a local decision about keeping the school, or district schools, open. 

Ultimately, one case confirmed in one of our schools will shut down multiple classroom and public spaces that we would need to access in order to operate the school in general. One case may require numerous individuals to be quarantined, and will most likely result in either an individual school or all district schools being closed to in-person instruction based on the superintendent’s decision. At this time it makes much more sense for us to not invite that type of situation into our schools. We would be much less prepared to manage remote learning overall under those circumstances and would also be less skilled at offering remote learning to those who were required to stay at home due to vulnerability or quarantine. We are ultimately attempting to provide families with some level of predictability and consistency in terms of what to expect and plan for in September and October while we monitor the situation. Opening in-person at this time would create a lack of consistency and result in probable immediate changes to our programming based on unexpected circumstances. We believe that this would cause much more harm and disruption to families than our plan to utilize remote learning from the start of the school year.

What about my Stafford student? How does this affect them?

We are still committed to providing transportation to Stafford for students who need that access. Knowing that Stafford has offered families a choice between in-person and full remote learning, we will be waiting until that decision deadline (August 5th) passes and our MRU administration will be in contact with Stafford to identify what the specific students’ needs are. Transportation needs will be sorted out at that point in time.


July 31, 2020

Mill River Schools Community,

The purpose of this email is to outline the following important information:

  • Start of school date for students and adjusted school year calendar
  • Decision regarding the way we will begin the school year as a district
  • Acknowledgement of factors involved in the decision
  • What to expect next

Start of School Date

On Tuesday of this week Governor Scott directed that Vermont schools will not open to students prior to Labor Day. Therefore, our opening day for students for the 2020-2021 school year will be Tuesday, September 8th. 

We are maintaining the overall structure to our school year calendar even with that new start date. An adjusted school year calendar is attached to this email for your reference and will also be available on our district website at http://millriverschools.org effective immediately.

Decision Regarding Start of School

We will be starting the 2020-2021 school year in Remote Learning. 

With that, we are committed to ensuring that our Remote Learning systems and outcomes are much more effective, accessible and connected than they were this past spring when we were in the midst of  our emergency response to the pandemic. The feedback from students, parents and educators has been carefully analyzed and woven into our planning for a more effective system as we begin this school year.

This approach is intended to remain in place at least through the months of September and October. Our goal is to resume in-person learning when it is safe and appropriate to do so, and we have prepared solid plans for when that time comes. A decision will be made by October 9, 2020 regarding whether or not we resume in-person instruction on November 1st.

Related to the Remote Learning start, we will be providing the opportunity for students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) to attend school in-person in order to access the support they are entitled to by law. Transportation will also be provided, if needed. More information will be provided later in this email.

Also related, guidance and direction from state authorities is coming soon regarding fall middle school and high school athletics. Anticipating that there may be some sports that are permitted to occur with restrictions, we will provide transportation to and from practices, if needed. More information will be provided later in this email.

Factors Involved

It will come as no surprise to the community that this decision is/was a very difficult one to make. We are not taking lightly or overlooking the ramifications that remote learning can have on family dynamics, friendships, child care, and parent work schedules. We clearly understand that the pandemic has made everything more difficult for all of us. 

As we shared with you in the email you received last week, our decision-making is based on attention to the following:

  1. Short and long term health and safety of our students and district employees.
  2. Ideal learning environments and best practices for instructional delivery.
  3. The social, emotional, and relational aspects of the school environment.

Looking at these priorities, the decision to open in a remote format is the safest and most logical choice for us. We do anticipate that we may be required by virus conditions to shift back into remote learning at some point coming in the school year if/when we do resume in-person instruction. We will be well-prepared for that situation as a result of starting the year remotely. We can keep our students and staff safe and healthy, provide a better  and higher-quality remote experience with more time to prepare, and will resume in-person when it is safest and best to do so. A remote learning start also provides us with the tangible benefit of watching what develops around us without endangering our students and staff.

Later in the school year, we anticipate that rather than canceling school due to winter weather, we will also be able to shift to remote learning on snow days (if we are in-person at that time) without needing to add extra days to the school year and therefore impacting family plans.

What to Expect Next

A number of things will begin occurring now that this decision has been made:

  • Families of students with IEPs will be contacted directly during the week of August 3rd to assess their interest in in-person vs. remote supports and associated transportation needs. The specific location of those services (specifically which school building(s) we will utilize) will be determined by the number of students that we are serving in-person and the overall dynamics involved with those particular students.
  • Based on athletic guidance coming soon, MRU athletes will be contacted directly after the guidance has been issued to assess their associated transportation needs.
  • Educator training will be developed and provided in line with our employee work year calendar in order to best deliver the remote learning experience that our students need and deserve.
  • Remote learning expectations, formats, and schedules for students and staff will be developed and clearly communicated as soon as they are available.
  • Principals will begin communicating much more information from individual schools beginning the week of August 3rd.
  • Details around technology acquisition, orientation opportunities with teachers, and overall expectations will be forthcoming as we spend the next month preparing and planning to implement our remote start effectively. Please continue to pay attention to emails and phone calls from your local school or from the district as that information rolls out.
  • Families and district employees have the month of August to plan, prepare, and make personal arrangements based on our status with Remote Learning for at least September and October.
  • We are designing our plans for providing meals for students. Currently, we intend to have meals available for pickup (similar to the process this summer) for our students who are eligible to receive Free and Reduced Lunch. We are investigating being able to offer meals for sale to students who are not eligible for Free-Reduced Lunch, but do have to navigate some regulatory dynamics and wait for the outcome of some decisions at the state and federal level. Updates will be provided on where we are with this process as the month of August proceeds.
  • Our After School Programs will not be operating as we are traditionally used to while we are in our Remote Learning mode during September and October. During that time, we are planning to utilize our After School Program resources and staffing to support two types of programs. One of those programs will be centered around individual tutorials/academic assistance/academic support. The other program will be focused on extracurricular workshops that will be delivered remotely to interested students. As these plans develop, more information will be shared as soon as it is available. Our intention is that once in-person instruction does resume, we will seek to implement our typical After School Programs with the service and times that our community is accustomed to.

I am sure that this information may bring new questions to mind for you. I am happy to answer those questions to the best of my ability. Please reach out either to me, or to your local school principal with any questions.

Sincerely,

Dave

MRUUSD Revised Calendar 2020-2021.docx 


7/24/2020

MRUUSD Community Members,

This email is intended to inform you of current status with regard to our reopening plans. The situation globally, nationally, and locally is very much in flux. My intention is to ensure that as of next Friday, 7/31/2020, our school district employees and community understand precisely where we are with reopening plans. 

Please be expecting communication from me next Friday, probably around noon, outlining things in more detail and with more clarity. I will have made the necessary opening decision by then and will communicate that information to you at that time.

Where We are Right Now

We have plans in place for in-person instruction to begin this fall according to the dynamics that have been outlined for you previously. Our district has done enough work on the front end that those plans will be ready to implement when it is the time to do so.

With that, I must be clear that opening remotely continues to be an option on the table, and one that I am giving very close consideration to as I make the decision about the instructional delivery disposition we utilize as a district to start the year. I am very sensitive to and burdened by the positive and negative impacts of both options (in-person vs. remote).

So that you understand the way I organize my thinking and decision-making on this subject, I approach this decision by considering the following three dynamics, listed in absolute order of importance.

  1. Short and long term health and safety of our students and district employees.
  2. Ideal learning environments and best practices for instructional delivery.
  3. The social, emotional, and relational aspects of the school environment.

Other Considerations at this Time

I am also giving strong consideration to adjusting our school district calendar to delay the start of the student year to after Labor Day. This would create more time for critical professional development and a longer on-ramp at the start of the year for us to prepare for the circumstances at hand. We may even see a directive come from the state level along those same lines. This shift is under very strong consideration.

My commitment to you is that by noon(ish) next Friday, 7/31/2020, you will have a clear picture of how we will open our schools this fall in order for you to be able to plan. I thank you for your patience as this unique era continues to unfold before us.

Any questions? Please let me know.

Dave


July 17, 2020

Mill River Schools Community,

This is another important email and I ask that you give it a careful read. 

Where We are Right Now with Planning

Our overall plans for reopening are coming together very well, and are fully aligned with the Health and Safety Guidelines issued by the state. I am confident that we will be as prepared as we possibly can be for the reopening of school. Principals have been waiting for me to issue this communication to you today, and they will slowly start communicating information to you in digestible chunks about what things will look like on a school by school basis.

For the time being it still seems that our tentative student day start/stop times are holding firm: 7:45-2:00 elementary and 9:30-3:30 MRU. Transportation survey data is due today – please submit that by 3:00 pm if you have not already. Here is the link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/T59L7ZD . That information will help us to design bus routes – which will take about 2 weeks for the design to be completed. As we approach August 1st we should have a good sense of more specific bus route dynamics based on the information you have provided. We do envision students assigned to specific bus stops and specific bus seats. That system will be very INFLEXIBLE, unfortunately.

As principals being sharing more information with you in the coming weeks we will continue to target the first days of August as the timeframe when when we want all families to have a strong sense of what the reopening of school will look like. We know that information will help you to make personal decisions related to the start of the school year.

On August 3rd we will issue a survey to families asking you to indicate whether you are sending your children to school for in-person instruction or planning to keep them at home for remote learning. We plan to provide both options. The turnaround for that survey will be very quick, so please plan in advance for your response.

New Information

Our elementary PreK educators, principals and after school staff have been working hard to land on details for me to share with you. This information may change, but here is what we currently are preparing for:

CES – PreK 5 days per week. Space limited based on health guidelines. Full day for 4 years olds. Shorter day for 3 year olds ending at 12:00. Backup childcare for 3 years olds from 12:00-2:00. After School options from 2:00-5:30. 

SMS – PreK 5 days per week. Space limited based on health guidelines. After School options until 5:30.

TMS – PreK 5 days per week. Space limited based on health guidelines. After School options until 5:30.

WES – PreK 5 days per week. Space limited based on health guidelines. Full day for 4 years olds. Shorter day for 3 year olds, likely ending at 12:00. TBD childcare from 12:00-2:00 (unknown currently). After School options 2:00-5:30.

Other Considerations at this Time

We are watching the national mood turn rapidly with regard to schools being open in the fall, and also see the beginnings of a large outbreak in the Manchester area, just outside of our district. We are aware of some social media chatter indicating how parents are feeling. There is a strong opinion building nationally in opposition to in-person reopening, and many districts and colleges across the country have already made a decision to open the school year remotely. 

One of the biggest challenges for me personally as an educator in this pandemic is reconciling the reality that our usual priorities in schools tend to focus on what is best for kids, their learning, and their social emotional development. I operate that way naturally and as a result of my experience. However, in the COVID context, keeping everyone safe and healthy takes top priority and overwhelms all other needs. Learning impact and social dynamics get pushed into the background as we plan for reopening in-person school. That is a very unsettling reality for me as an educator. My own feelings aside, I am closely watching the developments of the world around us with safety and health as my top priority. The other things are critically important, but they are further down the decision-making list until we emerge from the pandemic.

I share this with you now because we need for our families to be aware that, although schools are being encouraged to open in-person and we are preparing to open in-person, I may still need to exercise the right to make the decision to start the school year in fully remote learning. As you know, that is a very complicated decision with far-reaching implications. The Governor made that decision for us this past spring. That decision and authority lies with school district superintendents as we approach the fall. For us, the circumstances would have to be right for that type of decision to be made. I simply want families to know that the concept is not off the table. While we are planning actively for in-person and will be ready, the next two weeks will be very telling in a number of ways. August 1st continues to be a target date that I am watching closely in terms families having a firm sense of what we are doing for the school reopening – and that target date in my mind applies to the concept of reopening fully remotely as well.

I am confident that this email will bring up new questions and concerns that you might have. Feel free to reach out and ask me. If your questions are about specific schools and how they will function, please direct those questions to the school principal.

Sincerely,

Dave


July 17, 2020

Mill River Schools Community,

This is another important email and I ask that you give it a careful read. 

Where We are Right Now with Planning

Our overall plans for reopening are coming together very well, and are fully aligned with the Health and Safety Guidelines issued by the state. I am confident that we will be as prepared as we possibly can be for the reopening of school. Principals have been waiting for me to issue this communication to you today, and they will slowly start communicating information to you in digestible chunks about what things will look like on a school by school basis.

For the time being it still seems that our tentative student day start/stop times are holding firm: 7:45-2:00 elementary and 9:30-3:30 MRU. Transportation survey data is due today – please submit that by 3:00 pm if you have not already. Here is the link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/T59L7ZD . That information will help us to design bus routes – which will take about 2 weeks for the design to be completed. As we approach August 1st we should have a good sense of more specific bus route dynamics based on the information you have provided. We do envision students assigned to specific bus stops and specific bus seats. That system will be very INFLEXIBLE, unfortunately.

As principals being sharing more information with you in the coming weeks we will continue to target the first days of August as the timeframe when when we want all families to have a strong sense of what the reopening of school will look like. We know that information will help you to make personal decisions related to the start of the school year.

On August 3rd we will issue a survey to families asking you to indicate whether you are sending your children to school for in-person instruction or planning to keep them at home for remote learning. We plan to provide both options. The turnaround for that survey will be very quick, so please plan in advance for your response.

New Information

Our elementary PreK educators, principals and after school staff have been working hard to land on details for me to share with you. This information may change, but here is what we currently are preparing for:

CES – PreK 5 days per week. Space limited based on health guidelines. Full day for 4 years olds. Shorter day for 3 year olds ending at 12:00. Backup childcare for 3 years olds from 12:00-2:00. After School options from 2:00-5:30. 

SMS – PreK 5 days per week. Space limited based on health guidelines. After School options until 5:30.

TMS – PreK 5 days per week. Space limited based on health guidelines. After School options until 5:30.

WES – PreK 5 days per week. Space limited based on health guidelines. Full day for 4 years olds. Shorter day for 3 year olds, likely ending at 12:00. TBD childcare from 12:00-2:00 (unknown currently). After School options 2:00-5:30.

Other Considerations at this Time

We are watching the national mood turn rapidly with regard to schools being open in the fall, and also see the beginnings of a large outbreak in the Manchester area, just outside of our district. We are aware of some social media chatter indicating how parents are feeling. There is a strong opinion building nationally in opposition to in-person reopening, and many districts and colleges across the country have already made a decision to open the school year remotely. 

One of the biggest challenges for me personally as an educator in this pandemic is reconciling the reality that our usual priorities in schools tend to focus on what is best for kids, their learning, and their social emotional development. I operate that way naturally and as a result of my experience. However, in the COVID context, keeping everyone safe and healthy takes top priority and overwhelms all other needs. Learning impact and social dynamics get pushed into the background as we plan for reopening in-person school. That is a very unsettling reality for me as an educator. My own feelings aside, I am closely watching the developments of the world around us with safety and health as my top priority. The other things are critically important, but they are further down the decision-making list until we emerge from the pandemic.

I share this with you now because we need for our families to be aware that, although schools are being encouraged to open in-person and we are preparing to open in-person, I may still need to exercise the right to make the decision to start the school year in fully remote learning. As you know, that is a very complicated decision with far-reaching implications. The Governor made that decision for us this past spring. That decision and authority lies with school district superintendents as we approach the fall. For us, the circumstances would have to be right for that type of decision to be made. I simply want families to know that the concept is not off the table. While we are planning actively for in-person and will be ready, the next two weeks will be very telling in a number of ways. August 1st continues to be a target date that I am watching closely in terms families having a firm sense of what we are doing for the school reopening – and that target date in my mind applies to the concept of reopening fully remotely as well.

I am confident that this email will bring up new questions and concerns that you might have. Feel free to reach out and ask me. If your questions are about specific schools and how they will function, please direct those questions to the school principal.

Sincerely,

Dave


July 14, 2020

Mill River Schools Community,

You will receive another email from me on Friday of this week with updated information as we continue to plan for reopening of schools. That email will likely focus on two things: PreK plans & After School Program status. I am very aware that many parents of our youngest students are actively seeking that information and I appreciate your patience as we have been working on plans.

This email, however, is about TRANSPORTATION. At the end of the email will be a survey link that I ask every Mill River Schools family to complete by this Friday at 3pm.

This survey will help us to design not only our bus routes, but also to plan for student entry into school buildings given the requirements we will have to fulfill with health screenings and social distancing.

Some basic details that we know about transportation/busing at this moment in time:

  1. Bus routes will be longer than in the past, some as much as 50-100% longer.
  2. Numbers of students on board our buses will be limited to ensure social distancing.
  3. Stops will be assigned to specific students and limited in number to manage the length of time for buses to stop and screen students.
  4. Specific seats will be assigned for each student on board each bus, without exception.
  5. Students will be required to wear facial coverings on board the bus at all times.
  6. There will be no eating or drinking permitted on board school buses.
  7. Our tentative longest bus route is 2 hours from start to finish. Our shortest tentative route is one hour start to finish.
  8. Tentative school start times are 7:45 am for elementary and 9:30 for MRU. Depending on how routes develop, some of those longest elementary bus routes may have to be picking up students in the ballpark of 6:15 am.
  9. With a tentative 3:30 pm end of day at MRU, some of the longest afternoon MRU routes will have students arriving at their stops near or even after 5:00 pm.
  10. We are still short the full total of bus drivers needed to make our system work. If you or someone you know is interested in that type of opportunity please touch base with me and I will point you in the right direction.
  11. Transportation to school is a service that Vermont school districts are permitted to provide, but are not required to provide by law.

Please complete this survey no later than 3:00 pm this Friday 7/17/2020. Your responses are not binding at this time, but we will lock in plans for student arrival and departure status as we enter the first weeks in August and your commitments will be form at that point in time, barring an emergency.

Survey Link Below:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/T59L7ZD

Thanks,

Dave


July 10, 2020

Mill River Schools Community,

I hope you are well, and staying cool.

This email is intended to provide more details and updates as our plans for fall reopening continue to develop. My intention through the remainder of the summer will be to send families a Friday afternoon email with updates each week.

This entire email is very important for you to read and understand.

Transportation Dynamics

In order to maintain the safest school bus environment possible, we need to limit the number of students on board our school buses. This means that we are trying to ensure that buses will not have more than 24 students on board at any one time (one student per seat) and bus stops will be spread out to avoid large groups of students gathering. Screenings will take extra time at each stop, and we will be reverting back to separate elementary and MRU bus runs occurring at different times. We are also still short on bus drivers, so if you have connections with anyone please point them in our direction.

In terms of things that are up in the air right now, they include: actual routes (depends on who is riding vs. being dropped off or driving), full driver roster, and route times. The current longest routes look to be 2 hours from start to finish. The shortest routes are 1 hour from start to finish. Between elementary and MRU runs we also need to pause for 15 minutes to fully disinfect buses. You can see how complicated and time-consuming this becomes.

We will be surveying families next week soliciting non-binding (for now) commitments indicating whether or not students will ride the bus or arrive a different way. This will allow us to develop actual bus routes. We do know that bus stops will need to be specifically assigned to specific students and seats will be assigned to specific students. 

School Day and Schedule Dynamics

Related to the transportation dynamics above, we are not firm yet but are approaching some clarity about the student day at each level. We are looking at the following solid possibilities:

Elementary Student Day: 7:45 am – 2:00 pm. 

MRU Student Day: 9:30 am – 3:30 pm. 

We continue to design for elementary students to be in school 5 days per week, with likely exceptions for PreK.

MRU continues to design for students to be in-person 2 days per week and at-home 3 days per week. Students will likely be on a Mon/Wed or Tue/Thur schedule for in-person. Family consistency will be accommodated.

We also plan to survey families in early August to find out which families are concerned about their children returning to school in-person so that we can plan accordingly for the remote dynamics of learning for those students. 

Sports Dynamics

Middle school and high school sports have not been officially decided as of yet for the fall. That decision should come in the next couple weeks. We will not be hiring any coaches or offering contracts for fall sports until we know the exact direction the state is going. As mentioned in my previous email on this topic, there may be sports that are permitted to operate in the fall due to ability to maintain safety. There may be others that are prohibited. If there are any sports, the start date for those that are operating has been moved back to at least the first day of school in late August.

It is worth noting that, IF fall MS/HS sports do occur in any capacity, athletes will be responsible for getting themselves to school for practices and events. On days that they are in-person at MRU, that is simple. On days that they are at-home, that becomes more complicated. The district does not have any ability to transport at-home students to school for an after school practice or event.

I have made the difficult but justifiable decision that our elementary sports programs for this year will not occur. We do not have the ability to safely manage that process for our elementary students, staff, coaches and spectators. While I know that is not an ideal message for our families who participate in those sports, I have to make the decision that keeps our kids, staff and community safe. I am willing to revisit that decision in February/March 2021 to see where we are as a society with the virus and will make the safest decision possible at that time as well with regard to Spring 2021 sports options.

Stafford Technical Center

30-40 of our MRU students are enrolled at Stafford. Some drive and some ride a bus from MRU to Stafford each day. There are difficult dynamics in play, given that each high school in the region will be operating on a schedule that works for that school based on students numbers and space available to maintain social distancing. We will be working with Stafford and within our own transportation system to figure out what we can offer to get STC students from MRU to Stafford on a daily basis. There are no guarantees as to what we can or cannot provide. We’re committed to doing the best we can. When ultimate details emerge in that regard that information will come from the MRU Principal, Mr. Weideman.

Surveys Coming Out Soon

I plan to share a survey with our parent community at the start of next week seeking information about busing intentions. Please be on the lookout for that if it relates to you. We will need a very strong response to that survey in order to best meet the needs of everyone.

During the week of August 3rd individual schools will be sharing surveys with their parent community seeking feedback about those who need to continue in remote learning.

Please don’t hesitate to send any question my way. if your question is more based in a specific school’s dynamics, please don’t hesitate to contact that principal directly as well.

Thanks,

Dave


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!

Dave


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

Dave