Updates on Contact Tracing and Testing

Good evening students and families of Springfield School District,


This is Dr. McLaughlin, your Superintendent. I am reaching this afternoon to give you a quick update on some changes to our contact tracing process and the work toward new testing approaches.


Recently, the Vermont Agency of Education and the Vermont Department of Health issued new recommendations to the ways schools contact trace. As has been the case throughout the pandemic, every time there is a positive case in the school community school-based teams composed of school nurses, administrators, and staff carry out the internal contact tracing and notification of families.


In a recent memo from the agency and the department, changes were made concerning that contact tracing process.

  1. First, in schools where 80% of the student body is vaccinated, there no longer needs to be contact tracing or close contact quarantining. Unfortunately, this does not affect us as Springfield High School and Riverside Middle School have low vaccination rates. Therefore, contact tracing will continue at those schools. 
  2. Second, there have been adjustments to how close contacts are defined. Previously, students and staff who were within six feet of an infected person for 15 minutes during a 24 hour period were considered close contacts. Now, the distance is being redefined to three feet. This will reduce the number of students identified.
  3. Third, there continues to be a four-hour rule. Under this rule, students who are in the same classroom for four hours during a day were automatically considered close contacts. Under the new recommendations, this now includes pods of students who may have moved during the day. For example, if a class of elementary students were together all day but moved to a few different rooms, they would still be considered close contacts.
  4. Fourth, close contacts on buses are now limited to just a seatmate. Under the old rules, a student a seat away would also be considered a close contact.


Now, I am going to repeat a request I have made before. When these teams call you, please be kind. They did not develop the rules, but they are going above beyond their job descriptions to carry out those rules to try to keep your child safe. The task is arduous and is made much more difficult by parents who want to take out their frustration on those staff members. We understand your frustration with the challenges of the last few years, but if we are going to continue to provide the best possible experience to your children, I need you to lay off these staff members. They work too hard to be abused.


On testing, we continue to move closer to new options. In the coming weeks, we will be working to implement additional Covid testing opportunities under the name “Test to Stay” aimed at keeping more students in school. Response testing includes both rapid antigen testing and PCR testing and is intended to be used in response to a positive Covid case within the school community. The Agency of Education is still in the process of writing and providing consent forms and other information to districts. When we determine which programs we have the capacity to offer students and staff, we will share that information accordingly.  


One last thought for today, please keep your students home if they have symptoms. We continue to experience situations where students are being sent to schools with COVID-like symptoms. Let’s all please help out our neighbors by doing the right thing on this one.


As always, thanks for your time and attention.


I hope you have a good evening.