CVSD expecting any eventuality: Planning for school opening

At the Champlain Valley School District (CVSD) school board meeting on Aug. 4, the district administration presented a comprehensive plan for providing two instructional models for pre-K through 8th grade that will be in place for the district school opening. Families can choose either a hybrid model or a remote learning model for the 20-21 school year. Over 200 parents and community members attended the meeting.

The hybrid model and the remote learning models will each provide focused curriculum, contact with teachers and peers, a mix of instructional methods, and as much safety as is possible. The very low level of virus in Vermont has made school attendance a possibility. That low level, combined with the hard work of the administration over several months, has led to the careful introduction of in-school programming combined with remote instruction. Details of the two models are on the district and individual school web pages.

The hybrid model will feature two days of in-school instruction, one day of remote instruction, and two days of other work that is aligned with the curricular goals. In addition, there will be planned connections and meetings with other classmates and teachers. The K-4 level curriculum will focus on literacy, math and social emotional learning. The 5-8 curriculum will include math, language, world language, science and social studies. Supported instruction will be offered five days per week.

CVU’s model will be run on the same principles: a more focused curriculum; small student cohorts; two days per week at school and three days in a variety of remote learning instructional methods; support for students who may need it and possibly more time at school for those students; and sports and clubs with some constraints.

The remote model is designed to offer the same curriculum as the hybrid model for a student who will not be attending school in person. Remote instruction will be improved over the offerings in the spring. Parents of children selecting this model will be assisted and supported by the district in their efforts to deliver the remote curriculum. Because the 5-8 curriculum becomes more specific as the grade level gets higher, consideration is being given to working with the Vermont Virtual Learning Corporation which offers a fully developed curriculum. Conversations on this option are ongoing. The provision of a highly evolved remote learning program with either model means that if community spread becomes higher or lower, the district can rapidly pivot to enhance either model.

Within each model there are layers of complicated steps that must be pursued to make the model work successfully for safety and for academic success. For in-school safety, the implementation plan will include: measures to take temperatures before getting on buses or entering school and social distancing within the bus. Within classrooms there is protective equipment that will be worn, surfaces that will cleaned daily, and air that will be cleaned and circulated. The main emphases for students will wearing masks, social distancing and handwashing. Students will spend their in-school time in small learning cohorts that will limit their exposure to other students and to possible positive cases. The district is exploring the creation of outdoor classrooms in temperate weather.

Special attention will be paid to the social emotional growth and care of all students. Jennifer Roth, co-principal of Charlotte Central School, described the three main goals of a “learning process to nurture hearts, bodies and minds:

  1. relationships and mental health;
  2. safety in the presence of COVID-19;
  3. rigorous academics.”

The district is exploring how to provide childcare and supported instruction to children of district staff as well as children of working parents in the district. However, no volunteers or visitors will be permitted in the school to reduce the student and teacher exposures. If a case of COVID-19 arises, the public health department will handle the contact tracing. Some students and teachers in the cohort may have to quarantine for 14 days, but the school will not have to be shut down.

A survey was emailed to families Aug. 5, and parents have a week to decide upon which model they will select. After that selection has been made the hard work of matching students with cohorts and teachers will take place. Students will most likely not be matched with the teacher assigned to them last spring, given the number of classes, remote classes and levels to be taught. Many community questions were answered during the meeting. Administrators stressed that this opening is a work in progress and that flexibility and patience will be the basis for a more successful opening and for the school year.