On September 1, 2021

Local district mandates masks, offer weekly surveillance testing

Staff report

At the Windsor Central Supervisory Union (WCSU) board meeting on Aug. 16, the board mandated that WCSU adhere to the Agency of Education Covid-19 Advisory Memorandum, which requires mask wearing until 80% of eligible students are vaccinated. This means that all students and staff will be wearing masks at the start of school, according to an Aug. 19 newsletter from Superintendent Sherry Sousa.

The Windsor Central School District includes Woodstock Middle School and High School, The Prosper Valley School, Woodstock Elementary, Killington Elementary, Barnard Academy and Reading Elementary. 

In addition to universal masking, the Windsor Central School District will also limit access to school buildings to only faculty and staff (parents and volunteers will not be allowed, to reduce possible exposure), cafeterias will not be used for meals and instead students will eat snacks and lunches in either their classrooms or other designated spaces provided to Covid-19 surveillance testing and vaccination sites.

The determination of when masks will be removed will be based on the Department of Health communication that the 80% threshold for vaccination rate is achieved, and consultation with the WCSU Covid 19 Coordinator Katie Burke, administrators and Superintendent Sousa.

“We have done this before and very successfully,” wrote Sousa. “If we follow our path from last year, keeping our schools open and students learning with their teachers is possible. Principals will be sending out plans specific to their campus and programs, and we will all continue to communicate with you about changes to the plan and welcome your feedback on how we all are doing.”

“Our goal this school year is to safely and effectively educate all children in our district on a full-time, in-person platform that prioritizes the health and safety of all students, faculty and staff,” added WCSU Covid 19 Coordinator Katie Burke. “In order to achieve this goal, we will need to work together.”

Burke detailed the key steps the district will take to begin the school year: 

Get vaccinated

“Vaccination is the most important thing you can do to decrease the spread of Covid-19 and the Delta variant,” Burke said. 

Children ages 12 and older are eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine and there are several opportunities throughout the state to get the vaccine during the months of August and September. A parent must be present if a child under the age of 18 would like to receive a vaccine. Woodstock High School Middle School already held a Pfizer vaccine clinic coordinated by the Vermont Dept. of Health and the Vermont National Guard on Monday Aug. 23 and more are expected throughout the fall.

Stay home when sick

Students, faculty and staff are asked to stay home when sick this year and the guidance is clear:

“If your student has symptoms of Covid-19, a fever greater than 100.4F, or is currently in quarantine due to close contact with some who tested positive for Covid-19 they will be asked to stay home,” Burke said. “The expectation is that any/all students who have any signs of illness (stuffy nose, runny nose, congested cough, fever, rash, nausea, vomiting, etc) stay home for 24 hours. If symptoms persist over 24 hours, testing for Covid-19 is required… It is important that families have a plan in place for sick days in which students will need to stay home due to illness.”

Wear a face mask

All WCSU students, faculty and staff will be required to wear a face mask upon return to school. This directive could change in the middle school/high school building if leaders at the state level determine that the eligible population to have received the Covid-19 vaccine has reached 80%, Burke said. More information on how this benchmark is determined is expected to be forthcoming from the state soon, she added.

Weekly surveillance testing

“We will offer weekly surveillance testing for all students, faculty and staff who are interested in participating,” Burke announced, Aug. 19. 

Testing will occur on Thursdays and all faculty, staff and students ages 5 and older will be eligible to participate. Informed consent will be required for all faculty and families. Once consent is obtained it will remain on file for the remainder of the school year though it can be revoked at any time, she explained. 

If a positive result is identified by the weekly surveillance testing, the Dept. of Health and district coordinator will be notified by the processing lab, and the positive case will be notified by the Dept. of Health. The WCSU leadership team and school nurses will continue to participate in contact tracing as requested by the Health Department.

“We are anticipating a range of emotions as we prepare to return to our school buildings and re-establish our school communities, and we thank you for your collaboration, cooperation and most of all, your trust. We anticipate that things will continue to change rapidly this year as they did last year, and we remain committed to providing clear and transparent communication with our faculty, students and families,” Burke said.

For more information on the WCSD the 2021-22 Covid Response Plan visit: wcsu.net/2021-22-school-year.

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