Multiple COVID Updates

Good evening Springfield School District families, students, and staff,

This is Dr. McLaughlin, your Superintendent of Schools. I am calling tonight with a series of updates regarding COVID-19 in our district. I am going to go off our typical script in order to give you some more precise insight into what we have experienced over the course of the past week. 

Over the past seven days, we have experienced 9 total positive cases in the district. These cases are spread across all four of our schools. We have had 2 at Elm Hill, 1 at Union Street, 2 at the High School, and 4 at Riverside Middle School. These combined cases have resulted in almost 200 students who need to quarantine. The heaviest concentration of these has been at Riverside where more than 100 students have been placed in quarantine.

First, let’s talk about some immediate steps that are being taken to try to allow students to return to school. It was clear after Monday that the local need for testing services was going to outpace what was available. The district through our COVID Coordinator has been able to partner with both the Vermont Department of Health and Springfield Hospital to set up special testing clinics for the students identified as close contacts and their families. When school personnel reached out to those families, information was given about clinics. We hope that this speeds up test results and gets many students back to school quicker.

Second, I want to mention that we currently are not seeing a trend toward the spreading of the virus in school. We will continue to monitor cases, but it appears for the most part that students are being exposed to the virus outside of our walls. Then those students become positive and are in school. As a result of that, I am asking families to do all that they can to help us combat the spread when students are outside of schools. When students are here, we continue to take preventative measures, like universal masking, that we believe are limiting transmission. If we are going to keep your kids and your neighbor’s kids in school, we need you to be similarly diligent on the home front and in the broader community.

Third, all of our schools will be open tomorrow. At Elm Hill, we will have two closed classrooms. At Union, we will have one. At the high school and Riverside, we will be running all classes. Families affected by the room closures have been notified.

Fourth, I am going to continue to mention vaccination as something we should be focused on for ages 12 and up. I know is going to lead to angry families, but I need to echo what our Governor and state health officials are saying. High levels of vaccination are a big part of our way out of this. We have students tomorrow who will continue to be able to attend school while carefully monitoring for COVID-like symptoms. I would like to have more of our school community be able to do the same.

Fifth, it’s important to understand why we have so many quarantining students. Last year, we only brought in about 1/3 of our students at a time. As a result, we were able to spread out students and limit the number of close contacts. As we have moved back to five-day-a-week instruction, we have students in much closer proximity to one another. As result, far more students are considered “close contacts” under the guidelines. 

Sixth, I also want to note that we will be moving tomorrow’s special school board meeting to effectively a virtual event. We are experiencing technical challenges with seamlessly simulcasting an event of that size from the auditorium. In addition under our COVID protocols, we are limiting large-scale events, and now it’s clear that we are experiencing a period of community spread. Therefore, the event will be virtual for the vast majority of participants. We don’t anticipate that any board members or presenters will be at a physical location. They will be online. That being said the Secretary of State currently requires that a physical location is available to citizens who would like to go to watch and/or participate. As such, we will open the high school library tomorrow night for citizens that need help accessing the meeting.

Seventh, why aren’t we doing remote learning? In the spring the Governor removed his emergency order. When that happened, it moved us back to many pre-Covid regulations. That includes remote learning. Currently, we are not able to offer this for a full school, or the majority of the school. If we did, the state would not count as an official school day. I am in ongoing conversations with the Agency of Education about whether that may change. Please note that due to a loophole in the rules that we are able to offer remote learning for elementary classrooms that all need to quarantine. That would change if a majority of the school needed to quarantine.

Finally, if your student is not feeling well, you need to keep them home. I know it can be inconvenient, but it is something that we need to do for each other.

Obviously, this is a busy and stressful time for all of us. Please know that I don’t take it for granted. This is hard. This is not fun. I know that we all are frustrated. I ask you that as we navigate this together that you don’t direct that frustration at school staff who are just doing their job. We have a complaint department and it’s me, so I ask that if you need someone to vent on that you give my office a call. Even better, I would ask that you appreciate that we all, you included, are doing the best we can.

Hang in there Cosmos.

I hope you and your family remain healthy and happy. Have a good evening.