After two days of remote learning on Thursday, November 12, and Friday, November 13, Harwood Union Middle School and High School students are back to in-person learning.
The decision to close Harwood for two days came after one adult in the school community tested positive for coronavirus last week. According to a statement released by Superintendent Brigid Nease on November 15, contact tracing from the case resulted in four staff and six students being asked to quarantine. As of November 15, no other positive coronavirus results had been reported to the district.
While Harwood may be open for business once again, Moretown Elementary School (MES) moved to fully remote learning Monday, November 16, through Wednesday, November 18, due to lack of staffing. “At the end of last week, our already small substitute list shrunk even further as concerns about the virus rose,” said Nease in her statement. “More staff and students are absent for a variety of reasons including going into quarantine, pending test results or experiencing symptoms.”
The overarching message Nease gave in her statement was to stay tuned for more changes to in-person and remote learning schedules. “We are committed to keeping our campuses open for in-person instruction. However, safety will always come first and will not be compromised. This may require us all to pivot quickly,” she said.
Nease’s statement also contained an amalgam of pandemic-related HUUSD updates. For instance, beginning Monday, November 16, the district extended the “stay home under quarantine” protocol to all members of a household. This means that if a student or staff member is asked to quarantine by the Vermont Department of Health (VHD) or a health care provider, the district will ask that all members of the household follow the same guidance and quarantine as well.
“This means that siblings will be expected to quarantine. This applies to in-person learning, extracurricular activities and work at school. This decision was approved with unanimous consent by the HUUSD admin team and also will be implemented by other superintendents in our county,” said Nease.
Nease also reported a new announcement from the Vermont Agency of Education. From now on, school districts will be responsible for doing their own contact tracing when any member of the school community tests positive. This means the VDH will only be responsible for calling those with positive case results to recommend quarantine once contact tracing is complete. Moreover, school districts are now responsible for implementing their own staff surveillance testing model. “Both of these initiatives will take considerable logistical planning and assignment of school staff,” said Nease.
This morning, November 19, Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD) participated in the Vermont K-12 Surveillance Testing in Schools program, which allows asymptomatic staff to voluntarily take a coronavirus test at one of the seven mobile testing sites that will be set up at each school in the district.
On the evening of November 19, at The Valley Reporter goes to press, HUUSD board will discuss a proposal made by Nease regarding number of school days.
Nease wants the HUUSD Board to convert five paid work days to five paid vacation days for all HUUSD employees as a one-time bonus to recognize their handling the COVID pandemic.
The reason Nease is proposing to convert and not “award” five paid vacation days, is because Harwood teaching staff normally work an additional 10 in-service days outside of typical school days. However, this year, the Legislature passed a bill at the end of the session in June moving the required minimum student days from 175 to 170. Rather than making staff work 15 in-service days while students are not in the building, Nease suggests that all staff simply take those five days off as paid vacation time.