By Curt Peterson
Windsor Central Unified Union School District (WCUUSD) hosted five remote town hall meetings to discuss reopening strategies this fall. Governor Scott has set the statewide reopening date of Sept. 8, a week later than normal.
The July 29 Barnard Academy Town Hall, facilitated by acting Superintendent Sherry Sousa and Barnard’s new principal John Hansen, attracted more than 40 participants.
Administrators and the Agency of Education have stressed the need for a “Plan B” —remote learning if there’s a spike in Covid-19 cases. But Sousa provided a “wow” moment when she cited consensus among some colleagues that schools would probably have to return to remote learning by Oct. 1.
“Many of us are seeing trends in the states surrounding us that would lead us to believe [closing] is a real possibility,” Sousa told the Mountain Times.
In addition to the Barnard event, meetings have been held for Killington, Reading and Woodstock school communities. The last meeting, for the Middle/High School, is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 6 at 7 p.m. via Zoom. The link is on the WCSU Town Hall list, and the recorded events can be reviewed on the district website, WCSU.net.
Sousa’s short PowerPoint presentation featured scheduling to minimize density.
WCUUSD’s reopening plan goals are “the health and safety, and social and emotional health” of students, faculty, staff and parents. The strategy emphasizes “flexibility.” An important tool will be expanding “outdoor and place-based learning.”
Many parents agreed to provide transportation to the campuses, meaning fewer children riding the buses. Bus monitors will take students’ temperatures and ask screening questions — a temperature over 100.6 or a “wrong answer” will send the student home.
Hansen said each campus will probably have a tent for outdoor classes, where there is maximum air circulation and minimum opportunity for infection transmission.
“These tents cost around $20,000 each,” Sousa said. “That money isn’t in the budget.”
The school-week model features all-day classes, most district students in school for two days and learning remotely for three days, allowing class size to be cut in half.
Only Kindergarten through second grade (for Killington and Woodstock elementarys) and Kindergarten through third grade (for Barnard and Reading) will be in school four days per week. Wednesdays those students will also be remote learning from home, with teachers collaborating and planning — the facillities will be deep-cleaned.
Physical education classes will not use the gyms, and will involve unified cohort groups outdoors, allowing no intermingling between student groups that stay together during the entire day.
Students who need more in-person support, and children of “essential workers” and in-district teachers will be accommodated with additional days and/or five-day scheduling. There will be no after-school programs.
The district will provide a “remote-only” option for students who want it.
The plan, Sousa said, is evolving. Next steps will include forming work groups to discuss details and options, to create a section of the WCSU website for posting changes and notices regarding reopening in real time, to hold a series of “stakeholder information meetings” so everyone involved has up-to-date information, and to run through “virtual walk-throughs to test an actual school day” for things that need adjusting.
Sousa said county Covid-19 case counts would trigger consideration of closing schools, a decision that will involve the school nurse and collaboration with the AoE and the Agency of Health. “It’s not like calling a ‘snow day’,” Sousa said. “It will be a process.”