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Sunday, October 25, 2020

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Superintendent Updates

October 19, 2020

Dear Rivendell School Community,

On a daily basis, I am reminded of the challenges local school communities face in response to positive cases of COVID-19. We continue to be fortunate up to this point and I believe this is in large part because of the precautions we have put in place and the serious nature in which our communities have responded to COVID. I want to commend you and encourage you to continue following our guidelines and adhering to the unique travel restrictions that are in place. I know these restrictions can be incredibly challenging for our families to meet given our interstate connection. We will all continue to do the best we can and hope for reduced numbers in the coming weeks.

In a recent communication from the Vermont Department of Health it was noted that, so far, no further spread has occurred within a school after the initial case was identified. This would suggest that strategies like maintaining distance, using cohorts, requiring masks, washing hands regularly and disinfecting spaces daily are effective in preventing further transmission of the virus. Based on information shared in multiple VT/NH statewide superintendent meetings last week it is believed that a majority of recent regional exposures that resulted in positive COVID cases, have been traced back to activities outside of school. I would like to remind our school community the importance of maintaining safety measures regardless of what activities you are participating in.

With the holidays fast approaching it is important to be thinking about your travel or the travel of others who may be visiting you. It is my understanding that Vermont will be issuing some guidance in the coming weeks around holiday travel based on the epidemiological impact it could have on our communities. What this means for our district is understanding ahead of time who will need to quarantine when returning from the holiday break. If faculty and staff are traveling, we will need to know well ahead so we can plan for potential extended coverage.

In closing, I want to recognize the fact that as we navigate through the logistical details presented by COVID-19 we are doing our very best with the information we have at any given time. We work diligently to stay informed with the most up-to-date information and continue to learn along the way. I am proud of the way our elementary schools have approached in-person instruction and with a consistent community effort I am certain we will grow and improve.

As always if you have questions or concerns, I would encourage you to contact your building administrator or myself at your convenience.

Thank You,

Barrett Williams
Superintendent
Rivendell Interstate School District

 

October 13, 2020

Good Evening,

Today, Grafton County was identified as a yellow county on the State of Vermont cross-travel map. As a result, I have received many inquiries from faculty, staff and parents and wanted to provide an update to our school community in hopes of adding some clarity to the situation. Our district uses this map on a daily basis to determine if employees and students are subject to quarantine according to state guidelines.

Please see the map here: https://accd.vermont.gov/covid-19/restart/cross-state-travel

The change in Grafton County to a yellow zone means that non-essential travel to Grafton County requires a 14-day quarantine upon returning to Vermont. This does not impact students attending school or employees coming to work. I have provided the definition for essential travel below as outlined in the cross-state travel guidelines for Vermont.

Essential Travel:
People traveling for essential purposes, including work, do not need to quarantine. Essential travel includes travel for personal safety, medical care, care of others, parental shared custody, for food, beverage or medicine, to attend preK-12 school and college if commuting daily, or to perform work for businesses that are currently allowed to operate. For more information about which businesses may operate and how they may operate, view the Work Safe Guidance. Individuals engaged in a daily commute to and from their job are expressly exempt from the need to quarantine by Executive Order.

Please read through this information carefully so that you have a clear understanding about essential travel. If you have further questions, please contact me, your respective building administrator, and/or our RISD COVID Coordinators, Creigh Moffat and Jessica Gould.
Thank You,

 

October 2, 2020

Dear Rivendell School Community,
As many of you are aware, Governor Scott announced last Tuesday that Vermont schools would shift from Step II guidance to Step Ill as of Saturday, September 25th The change between Step II and Step Ill have minimal impact on how we operate or the restrictions we are required to follow. The only significant change is that we are now able to begin competing against other teams as part of our fall athletic programs.

The new guidance also allows for more flexibility with the use of large group spaces such as the gym and the cafe, which is helpful as we plan for the colder months. We are currently exploring ways to hold classes outside during these beautiful fall days as recommended by our respective states knowing that winter is fast approaching. I would like to commend our faculty and staff for their efforts and willingness to problem solve by offering solutions and remaining flexible to ensure we have a safe and healthy start.

The move to Step Ill is in alignment with our plan to open our elementary schools and bring additional students back to the Academy. Planning ahead for contingencies will prepare us for the ever­evolving nature of COVID. This school year is complex and changing daily and we understand the frustrating nature of this difficult process and continue to appreciate your flexibility and understanding.

We have updated our family COVID handbook to reflect some minor changes, which are highlighted in red. As you read through the handbook please reach out with any questions you might have. Both elementary schools have each issued a handbook that is similar in nature, but more specific to their individual buildings. You will also be receiving a COVID acknowledgement and agreement form that we are asking families to sign and return for those who are in-person for instruction. Other information included this week is our remote learning platform and updated bus schedule based on the opening of SME and WES.

I hope that everyone is able to enjoy a safe and happy fall weekend!!!

Thank You,

Barrett Williams
Superintendent
Rivendell Interstate School District

 

September 18, 2020

Dear Parents and Guardians:

I would like to start by thanking you for your patience and understanding as we work through these first five weeks of remote instruction. Our faculty and staff have worked diligently to develop a platform in which we can connect with students in a meaningful way. We could not have done this without your support and your efforts are very much appreciated. Beginning on October 5th Rivendell Interstate School District will be open for in-person instruction with modified hours and days. We will still require enhanced physical distancing, precautionary measures and will provide a remote learning option for families who wish to keep their children home. Outlined below are some important details about what each campus experience will look like and how it will be structured.

Your COVID family handbook is up to date regarding the in-person restrictions required by the state. The one change of significant note is that we are no longer required to screen students prior to boarding the bus at the first point of contact. However, they will be screened upon arrival at school and they will be sent home if they have a temperature or if they present any of the COVID related symptoms outlined in the handbook. This has been a controversial topic in surrounding towns, and I want to be very clear about our expectations. We will ask parents to sign a waiver and an agreement related to our expectations around safety measures we are required to follow.

We have a few changes to note in the calendar as we begin to plan for a transition to Phase II.

  • September 28th – September 30th will be half days of remote instruction at the elementary level
  • September 28th in-service will be moved to October 1st
  • October 9th fall conference day will be moved to October 2nd
  • October 1st and October 2nd will be in-service days at the elementary level and conference days for the Academy


In the coming weeks you will receive communication from your building administrator to inform you about some of the logistics within each building (drop off/pick up, recess, bus routes, etc.). We will also be sending home important paperwork directly related to Phase II for you to sign and return prior to October 5th. The following pages outline what Phase II looks like at each building beginning October 5th. If you have questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me via e-mail or phone at your convenience.

Thank You,

Barrett Williams
Superintendent
Rivendell Interstate School District
Phases of School Reopening

phases reopening

Rivendell Academy: The Academy will continue with remote instruction through the end of the first trimester. They have developed a strong remote learning platform built upon lessons taught via Zoom twice a week, office hours three days a week for students to get help, and Google Classroom. Students needing specialized direct instruction and students who need internet support will continue to attend school on campus. The Academy is currently making plans to bring additional middle school students onto campus for extra support based on the needs of students as determined by our faculty. We have surveyed students on their experiences with remote instruction and have provided them with opportunities for input in our Phase II planning. Our general goals are to develop Phase II plans that 1) promote improved interaction between teachers and students without eroding the quality instruction that the students are currently receiving and 2) increase the level of support that our IEP and academic mentoring students are currently receiving. We are looking at the end of our first trimester as a target date for returning students for some form of in-person instruction.

WES and SME: Westshire and Samuel Morey will open for in-person instruction on October 5th. Students will be spending their school day primarily with their classmates and teacher. There will be minimal time where different classes will interact. There will not be any whole school gatherings and recess will consist of no more than two grades maximum in the same outdoor area. Students and teachers will use the same indoor spaces and bathrooms every day. Students will not rotate into the library or art/music room, instead teachers will come to the students to teach. Our priority is to reduce the number of people sharing the same spaces and lower the risk of spreading COVID-19. This will mean that some teachers that normally rotate daily from SME to WES will rotate on a longer bi-weekly schedule. Our school day experience will be shorter than a normal school day (8:30 a.m.-2:15 p.m.) to allow for time for the new logistics of the staggered arrival and departure.

Westshire:
Start & End Times of the On-Campus Experience

  • The WES on-campus experience will be Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m.- 2:15 p.m.
  • Morning drop-off will start at 7:45 a.m. and end at 8:15 a.m. (We strongly encourage families to drop off your child in your vehicle to reduce risk of exposure. Students traveling on buses will be adequately spaced apart according to the DOE recommendations.)
  • Morning bus runs will arrive to school at 8:20 a.m. and afternoon bus runs will depart from school at 2:30 p.m.
  • Students will be screened upon arrival and will then report to their respective rooms.


Samuel Morey:

Start & End Times of the On-Campus Experience

  • The SME on-campus experience will be Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m.- 2:15 p.m.
  • Morning drop-off will start at 7:45 a.m. and end at 8:15 a.m. (We strongly encourage families to drop off your child in your vehicle to reduce risk of exposure. Students traveling on buses will be adequately spaced apart according to the DOE recommendations.)
  • Morning bus runs will arrive to school at approximately 8:20 a.m. and afternoon bus runs will depart from school at 2:30 p.m.
  • Students will be screened upon arrival and will then report to their respective rooms.


Rivendell Academy Middle School/High School:
Start & End Times of the On-Campus Experience

  • The Academy experience will continue to be the same for students who are attending in-person for technology and specialized instruction.
  • Morning drop-off will start at 7:45 a.m. and end at 8:00 a.m. (We strongly encourage families to drop off your child in your vehicle to reduce risk of exposure. Students traveling on buses will be adequately spaced apart according to the DOE recommendations.)
  • Morning bus runs will arrive to school at approximately 8:05 a.m. and afternoon bus runs will depart from school at 2:45p.m. (Thursday afternoon departure time will be 2:15 p.m.)
  • Families with limited access to internet will still have the option to send students additional days.
  • Students needing to access specialized instruction will also have the option to attend additional days.
  • Students will be screened and then report to their respective pod/designated workspace.


Preschool:
Preschool will continue to start their day at 8:00 a.m. and end at 11:30 a.m. We will offer childcare until 2:00 p.m. so that families can pick up their children before buses and older students are dismissed. We will charge a flat rate of $20 per day for any family that is accessing the preschool aftercare program.

Fully At-Home Option for Elementary:
Families may opt to access their child’s education program entirely at home. Elementary students will be assigned to a grade cluster cohort and will have a pod leader who will serve as an academic support and contact. This will be different from what the first five weeks of remote instruction looked like. Elementary students choosing to stay remote will have access to additional platforms that are designed specifically to provide grade level content (e.g., Canvas/Edmodo).

Attendance:
The daily and weekly structure for the RISD academic experience as of October 5th will be very similar for Academy students and very new for elementary students. Schools are required to officially record daily attendance which can be challenging when looking at the restrictions related to symptoms and daily screenings. Whether on-campus or at home, students will convene daily for a morning check-in and attendance. Attendance will be recorded but, in the event of a technology issue or in the event a child is home because of mild symptoms, attendance can be recorded by completing work or calling the school directly. Students selecting the fully at-home option will need to coordinate their schedules with their cohort leader.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - Superintendent
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. – Head of Schools, Rivendell Academy
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. – Principal, Westshire Elementary School
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. – Principal, Samuel Morey Elementary School

 

August 19, 2020

Good Afternoon,

I hope you and your families are well and have been able to enjoy the summer. Understandably, we have had several requests from parents about childcare for essential workers. As you know it is extremely difficult to determine who is an essential worker per the guidance from our respective states. When I reviewed the regulations, it would appear that 80% of our workforce could claim to be essential, which makes it difficult to establish guidelines for us to follow as a school district. Therefore, we have established our own criteria listed below. If you feel like you meet these criterion please send an e-mail to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The following criteria need to be met to qualify for our essential care program:

  • Both parents when applicable must be deemed essential workers.
  • Childcare options for the respective state you live in must be explored and ruled out because of logistics and or availability. Vermont residents should contact the Family Place at 802-649-3268 and ask for a childcare referral. New Hampshire residents should do the same through their state agent, NH Childcare Aware at 603-578-1386. They most likely will refer you to Care.com if you wish to skip the formalities.
  • Your employer must provide a written statement that indicates the need for you to be physically at work.
  • Must be able to drop off no earlier than 8AM and pick up no later than 3PM.
  • Essential worker care is no longer a reimbursable cost for the school district and therefore will require us to charge a fee of $45 per day per enrolled child. Your payment will need to be received prior to your child’s first day of the week.

Thank you for being patient as we work to find a solution for essential worker families during this difficult time. My hope is to begin offering care within the district starting September 8th. Please contact your building administrator if you have specific questions related to your childcare needs.

Best regards,

Barrett Williams
Superintendent
Rivendell Interstate School District

August 19, 2020 Superintendent Letter about childcare for essential workers

 

RISD Family Resouce Guide
Reopening of Schools Amidst COVID-19

Issued: July 16, 2020
Revised: August 4, 2020

 

August 4, 2020

Dear Rivendell School Community,

The Rivendell Interstate School District has been working tirelessly for the past month planning for the safe reopening of schools for the upcoming school year. I would like to take this opportunity to thank our reopening committee made up of administrators, faculty and staff who volunteered their time, effort, and energy to develop a plan that is consistent with our guiding principles for reopening:

  • Safety and health of all students and staff is our priority
  • Social emotional well-being of students and staff is essential
  • Equity of access must be front and center in everything we do


We carefully considered the results from our family survey, feedback from our faculty, and the guidance from each state to develop recommendations for three options, remote virtual instruction, a hybrid model of both in-school and at home learning, and in-person instruction with restrictions. More detailed information about each of these recommendations are found in our family resource book.

One of the biggest challenges we have faced has been interpreting school reopening guidance from Vermont and New Hampshire. This guidance continues to change often and is inconsistent between the two states. In many instances the restrictions being recommended and or mandated will have a significant financial impact on our local budget that we worked so hard to pass this year.

Amidst all this uncertainty I/we have tried to keep the school community updated about our plans in hopes of alleviating any anxiety and worries about your children and the reopening of school. These circumstances have had a dramatic impact on all of us and will continue to do so for the next several months. My hope is that our respective schools will help provide the resources many of our students and families need to minimize this impact. In thinking about how to best serve the wide variety of needs of our families, I entered this process thinking that we would plan to reopen in some capacity with an in-person instruction model, but after careful consideration and thoughtful reflection it became clear to myself and our committee that our district would be best served with a slow opening that allows us to do one thing well while training and preparing for the next phase. Last week, our team met to reconsider our reopening plan and models and have developed an updated framework to reopen.

The FY20-21 school year will begin on August 31st in accordance with NH start date guidance and will do so in a remote/virtual instruction model for all students in all grades, K through 12, through October 2, 2020.

  • Local curriculum by your child/children’s teacher(s) will follow the remote/virtual model with additional online resources supplementing our curriculum.
  • Students will have access to teachers and support staff five days per week.
  • RISD will allow students needing specialized instruction and families with inequitable internet service to work at school.
  • RISD will continue to provide food service throughout the period of remote/virtual learning including delivery for families in need.
  • RISD will continue to provide student and family support services throughout the period of remote/virtual learning including mental health needs.
  • If health conditions allow, we will plan to implement a hybrid model of in-person instruction the week of October 5th. Parents who wish to have their child continue with remote/virtual learning may choose to do so at that time.


I would like to stress that this version of distance learning will be different from what was delivered in the spring of 2020. We are committed to providing a more comprehensive approach to teaching and learning with increased interaction with staff. Our decision to start the year remotely was not made lightly, but when considering the restrictions of in-person learning we recognize that students and teachers alike would struggle in such an environment without the proper professional development and training. The district will provide orientation days prior to the start of any in person instruction. Faculty and staff will work on short tutorial videos to help orient parents to any new procedure resulting from COVID-19.

By delivering our curriculum remotely with daily interaction with our students and families, we are providing opportunities, support, and professional development that will allow us to open for in-person instruction in a safe and efficient manner. We recognize that this news may be difficult for some families, but believe we are acting in the best interest of the district. The uncertainty of the impact COVID-19 will have on us locally could result in having to transition numerous times between all virtual learning and our hybrid model, for undetermined amounts of time. The need for us to remain flexible continues to be paramount to our success as a district. I thank you for your continued support as we navigate these difficult times.

As a reminder we have developed an FAQ e-mail for parents to ask questions as they arise. Further information will be coming from building administrators and department chairs as we approach the start of school over the next couple of weeks. I hope this plan gives you peace of mind that we will deliver on our guiding principles of reopening - safely, equitably and responsibly committed to our staff and students. I am confident that we will deliver outstanding educational services remotely/virtually until we are able to properly and safely come back together.

Thank you,

Barrett Williams
Superintendent
Rivendell Interstate School District
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

August 4, 2020 Superintendent Letter to families about reopening 

 

 

Week of May 14, Superintendent Update

https://youtu.be/rQtgIMPmNIA