At Governor Phil Scott’s press conference on Tuesday, November, 24, Vermonters learned of a new directive in which Vermont schools must ask students about their family’s travel and socialization history upon return from Thanksgiving break. In a Q&A session, Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD) Superintendent Brigid Nease answered The Valley Reporter’s questions about this new policy.
Q: How many students had to be sent home upon return from Thanksgiving break due to coronavirus concerns?
A: As far as the number of students sent home due to COVID concerns, I wouldn't have that data as a district. Each school does not likely have that yet as a building. Grades seven through 12 only have half the students in person so they won't have that second half of the number until Friday. We will collect the data and total it to report in our attendance data for this week hopefully by Monday of next week.
Q: At the last governor’s press conference, we heard that Vermont schools must ask students about their family’s travel and socialization history when they get back from Thanksgiving break. Is the HUUSD administration and board comfortable with this new policy?
A: The HUUSD admin team met late afternoon the day this directive came out. We all agreed that this was a requirement for schools by executive order of the governor. We watched his press conference together and viewed the first published reports. We agreed that it was said "schools will" and did not determine that this was a local choice. The implementation of adding this screening question is not comfortable in any way. We are doing so because we believe we are obligated to as a matter of public health and safety following an executive order by our governor.
Q: Do you feel it makes kids vulnerable to the wrath of their parents to ask if they traveled over break?
A: The traveling question has always been a part of the screening. It is required.
Q: How will you handle a situation in which a student says they traveled or socialized over Thanksgiving?
A: We will follow the quarantine guidelines that are required.
Q: If a child reports that they attended a multi-household gathering, what will happen if a parent has to work and a student cannot be sent home?
A: This will be dealt with like any other time a student needs to be sent home. The same would be true by answering yes to any of the screening questions, having a temperature or getting sick while already at school.
Q: Will that child be sent to a remote learning center? How will that potentially exposed child be safely taught at such a facility?
A: The school district will call the parent to come and get the student. What the parent does from there is their decision. Educational pods and child care provisions are allowed.
Q: What will you do if a child refuses to answer the question?
A: That has never happened. The parent will be called.