By Nancy Richardson, contributor

The work of the Champlain Valley School District administration, teachers, and staff over the past six months resulted in a smooth opening of school on September 8. On opening day, 3,807 students were enrolled in classes, including 345 students in the remote model. Ninety-two students selected state home schooling, slightly up from 78 students last year. The numbers continue to be fluid. All schools have outside classrooms and learning opportunities available for students in the hybrid model. Superintendent Elaine Pinckney reported that she perceived overwhelming positive energy accompanying the first day of class.

Pinckney said this success reflects the decision to open with a hybrid model, to spend a substantial amount of time on professional development, and to create a completely new remote learning curriculum model. Scheduling the remote curriculum, especially for students in 5-8 grades, was a logistical challenge. Over 100 students, two teams per school, four to five subject areas, and 12 teachers were in the mix that eventually landed on a formula.

Getting Chromebooks, iPads, and internet capability to all enrolled students was also a challenge. Jeff Evans, director of learning and innovation, said, “The challenges of developing the remote learning academy have been enormous. This many students learning remotely has required the creation of new protocols and work across schools.” Director of Operations Jeanne Jensen stated that this level of success “required that principals to work very hard together.” Hybrid instruction includes both in-person and remote-learning classes.

Charlotte Central School Co-principal Jen Roth takes a student’s temperature in the drop-off line in the school parking lot last week. All students get temperature checks before they enter the building. Roth gives them the go-ahead with a cheerful, “You’re healthy!” Photo by Chea Waters Evans

Charlotte Central School Co-principal Jen Roth takes a student’s temperature in the drop-off line in the school parking lot last week. All students get temperature checks before they enter the building. Roth gives them the go-ahead with a cheerful, “You’re healthy!” Photo by Chea Waters Evans

In addition to developing these new models, the district is concerned about what students may have lost in the shut down in the spring. All students will be assessed on their learning levels and indicators. Potential losses will be addressed in the learning activities this year. Over 400 IEP meetings were held for special education students and their assessments will included consideration of compensatory services that may have arisen from the spring disruption.

There are some potentially problematic issues that may affect the smooth operation of schools during this pandemic. While staffing is currently at an appropriate level, a concern is that when predictable absences occur, there may be a difficulty in staffing paraprofessionals and substitutes. These positions may be a good match for recent graduates who may be suffering in the current job market. These potential staffing issues are not confined to CVSD but are present throughout the state. Openings at CVSD are advertised on their website.

A good deal of time has been spent on dealing with the social/emotional issues for adults and children that have resulted from the anxiety about the pandemic and becoming ill. The district has worked very hard to purchase the levels of Personal Protective Equipment that are sufficient to instill confidence in teachers and students. The district is also addressing the social and emotional issues that will persist and that can be addressed in a thoughtful and concerted manner. Bonnie Birdsall, director of digital learning, described the communication system for families, students, and the public. These include newsletters, videos, press availability, public meetings, the website and announcements on Front Porch Forum.

Of particular note: CVSD learned this week that the federal government will assist in funding meals for all students below the age of 18, regardless of their economic status. CVSD meals will be available to all students attending school and through drop-offs and pick-ups for students engaged in remote learning.