From the Superintendent's Desk
Mark Tucker, M.A. - Caledonia Central Supervisory Union
School Closure Extended Through the End of School Year
What is New
On March 26th, Governor Scott issued additional direction to extend the closure of our schools through the end of the school year. The full text of his announcement is at https://governor.vermont.gov/press-release/governor-phil-scott-dismisses-schools-person-instruction-remainder-2019-2020-school
I wish I could give credit to the person who put this thought in my head, but I am going to steal it nonetheless: “We are not closing our schools, we are simply closing our school buildings.” As a practical matter, this means that our great public schools will continue to have a presence in your children’s lives and by extension – maybe even more so than ever – in your lives as parents, grandparents, partners, aunts, uncles, etc.
The timeline for right now is that we will be continuing with the education maintenance that we started on March 18th until April 13th, when we will be switching to Continuity of Education plans. We intend to continue the meal program that we started on March 18th through the end of the school year.
I know this decision to close for the remainder of the year raises a lot of questions for everyone. We are awaiting formal guidance later today or over the weekend from the Agency of Education on the following important questions, to:
- Address student attendance and school calendar requirements;
- Clarify procedural requirements for compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA);
- Focus district efforts on ensuring equitable access to high quality instruction and learning opportunities;
- Describe how end of the school year gatherings and graduations will be handled in the event school is not re-opened prior to May 8, 2020
I am hearing from more and more families that just two weeks into this school building closure, you are already feeling overwhelmed by the additional stress of the expectations we are placing on you to help us educate your children at home, even as you try to navigate all of the other additional responsibilities and restrictions imposed by the State's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We hear these concerns, and when we start to build our Educational Continuity plans, I will be asking my Leadership Team to be flexible with work expectations for your children and to be sensitive to the disruptions that additional contact from school might be having on you.
We are all going through a grieving process – grieving the closing of the buildings, the loss of direct contact and support between our teachers and their students, the loss your children are feeling from limited social interaction with their peers. This is a time when we all need to be focused more on self- and other-care and perhaps a bit less on the ABC’s. We will walk that line as well as we can, even as we face expectations placed on us from higher-ups.
Childcare in CCSU
After spending most of the week trying to line up staff to care for children in our schools, it has become apparent that we will not be able to provide this support in our schools. We were on the verge of opening a site at Barnet School next week, but I had to reach out to those families this morning to tell them we couldn't do it.
Some of this results from changing health circumstances for employees who had initially volunteered to provide daycare services but no longer can. In most cases, however, the staff who had volunteered were teachers who were willing to do double duty providing instructional support to their students at home AND take a shift caring for children at school. With the Governor's announcement last evening that we will not reopen our schools to onsite instruction this school year, came an additional ramping up of the instructional requirements for the remainder of the school year.
As noted above, we are awaiting guidance from the Agency of Education that we need to craft viable "Continuity of Education Plans." Not knowing the extent or complexity of the task ahead, teachers have decided they need to be focused 100% on remote teaching responsibilities. I agree that this has to be the priority for our professional teaching staff.
Before last night's order from the Governor, we thought we would be able to open a site in Barnet, but that formal announcement to you would have come with the caveat that the site would be open only so long as we could safely staff it. That decision has now been made for us.
I wish I had better news on this front. The District is prepared to help with the financial impact of alternative childcare if you place your children in a private pre-qualified daycare facility. This offer is extended because the Agency of Education has told us we will be reimbursed, but it does not extend to private daycare costs (paying babysitters). If you do place your child(ren) in a private pre-qualified facility and you need help with the associated costs, or you need help finding one, please contact Jess Monahan in my office email@example.com.
In closing, my advice to everyone is simply to take it easy this weekend. The weather forecast for Saturday calls for brilliant sunshine and 51 degrees, a great time to get out and gather some natural Vitamin D. The forecast for Sunday calls for rain, a great time to put the work down and enjoy a little "Q-time" with your families. I know I have some staff who are fretting about what’s next in terms of meeting the educational needs of our students – to them I say “All will be revealed next week.” I know some of our families are concerned about the long-term consequences of an interrupted school year, especially for families with graduating 6th and 8th-graders and high school seniors – to you I say, “We will do everything in our power to gather and honor the work of your children, as soon as the medical crisis is over.”
Much more to follow.
Mark Tucker, M.A.
Superintendent, Caledonia Central SU
Note: This is the ninth in a series of newsletters as we learn about and respond to the the impact of Coronavirus in our schools and communities.
Disclaimer: Nothing in this newsletter is meant to substitute for medical advice from your family practitioner