By Mara Brooks, Editor

New Champlain Valley School District Superintendent Rene Sanchez revealed COVID-19 protocols for the fall semester at the Aug. 17 CVSD Board of School Directors regular meeting. Sanchez was hired as the new superintendent in April and officially stepped into the role last month.

Charlotte students will be released early on the first day of school, Wednesday, Aug. 25. All classes will be held in person, five days a week, with remote options available only to students with special circumstances.

“At this point, we’re not offering any formal virtual learning outside the Vermont Virtual Learning Collaborative,” Sanchez said. “Families that are interested in remote learning need to contact the AOE to become an approved homeschool family.”

Special education students may also be eligible for virtual learning if indicated by the student’s special education plan or IEP, Sanchez said.

Consistent with guidance from the Vermont Agency of Education and the Department of Health (DOH), all students are required to wear a mask indoors regardless of vaccination status. Unvaccinated students must also wear a mask outdoors, while vaccinated students may remove their mask when outside.

District schools will also feature improved ventilation and air filtration systems as part of a “four-pronged approach” to reduce airborne transmission of the coronavirus, Sanchez said.

“All [ventilation] systems have been evaluated by HVAC professionals for maximum efficiency,” Sanchez said. “We will increase outdoor air ventilation as much as possible while keeping temperature and humidity parameters in mind.”

The ventilation systems will operate on an extended schedule “to make sure an appropriate amount of fresh air is coming into the building,” Sanchez said. “We’ve upgraded the filters to ASHRAE (The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers) recommended levels to handle the additional filtration.”

Should a student or staff member test positive for COVID-19, the district will work with state agencies to limit the exposure through a combination of contact tracing and quarantining, Sanchez said.

“As we design our classes and activities and field trips, a big piece for us is making sure we have a really good idea of who is near who,” Sanchez said. He added that all school events are being planned with the potential need for contact tracing in mind.

DOH guidelines require those who test positive for the virus to isolate for a minimum of 10 days. In cases where a fully vaccinated person is a close contact of someone with a positive test, the vaccinated person does not have to quarantine unless they become symptomatic.

CVSD will also participate in surveillance testing, Sanchez said. The DOH is offering no-cost COVID-19 surveillance testing to staff and students in all Vermont schools. Students must have parental consent to participate, and test results will be made available to students and parents through a private login to a personal testing portal.

Due to trash collection and supervision concerns, students will not eat lunch in their classrooms this year. All grades will dine in the cafeteria, with younger students seated by class. Sanchez said high school students last year proved “reliable” in providing their close contacts to contact tracers and can sit where they wish in the cafeteria.

Other district COVID-19 protocols include virtual student assemblies; required masks at all large group gatherings; masks for all individuals on all school transportation vehicles; and no overnight out-of-state or international trips.

In cases where new guidance has not been provided by state agencies, the district will rely on existing guidance from last spring, Sanchez said.

“We are really excited about being able to offer school five days a week,” Sanchez said.

The CVSD COVID Recovery Plan can be found on this website.