Shaw Israel Izikson, Reporter
A group of five parents voiced concerns over aspects of the school district’s COVID-19 protocols at the Champlain Valley School District’s Board of School Districts’ regular meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 2.
According to the school district’s website, as of Wednesday, Nov. 3, 58 members of the school community have tested positive for the virus so far during this school year, including 10 active cases.
The website stated the majority of cases originated from the Williston Schools, which have had 42 cases since the school year started.
Meanwhile, the Champlain Valley Union High School reported eight COVID-19 cases since the school year began, Shelburne Community school reported five cases, and Hinesburg Community School reported four cases.
Charlotte Central School has not reported any cases since the start of the school year.
Jessica Phelan, a parent of two students at Williston Central, was the first to speak out about the district’s handling of the pandemic.
“I am concerned by the wait-and-see approach that we followed, and the time that it took the administration to act with stronger in-school protocols when our caseloads climbed this past September,” Phelan said. “I know that I am not alone in contacting the administration on multiple occasions when it comes to demanding many things: reinstatement of the state mask mandate, and increased Covid protocols in schools. I want to feel confident that this governing body will proactively advocate for us in the future when the community is raising collective concerns like we are doing today.”
Phelan asked several questions of the board, including what the school district’s Covid protocols would be for the rest of the year, and what the district’s academic response would be for students who lost learning days as a result of being quarantined.
“I have two children who are in Williston Central, and they have been quarantined a total of five times this year due to being identified as close contacts,” Phelan said. “They have lost a total of 22 days of in-school learning.”
The board did not answer Phelan’s questions, but other parents attending the meeting raised similar concerns with the board, including Caroline Dahlstrom.
“I have got a fourth-grader, a kindergartener, and a three-year-old who gets IEP [Individualized Education Program] services through the school district,” Dahlstrom said. “My youngest [child] is medically fragile and is at high risk for Covid. Because of that, my family has had to take enhanced precautions.”
Dahlstrom said that, while her family felt safe during the last school year, this year they do not.
“This year, my fourth grader has missed 25 days so far, and my kindergartener has missed 15 days, and that is just in the first two months of the school year,” she said. “My three-year-old has only been able to have three in-person therapy sessions. They have all been on our front porch because he cannot go to the school yet safely. Despite the absolutely amazing efforts of his teacher, we still don’t have a plan for how to get my fourth-grader back in person in school.”
Dahlstrom said that “I thought I was going to lose my child on more than one occasion.”
“I am asking for enhanced protections for contact tracing guidelines to go back to what they used to be,” Dahlstrom said. “The larger pool of kids so that we can capture every child who is exposed. Right now, we are missing children who were exposed and are sick. They are given the opportunity to expose other children.”
On Oct. 29, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized the emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccine for children 5 to 11 years old.
The state’s department of health has set up a section on their website with information about the vaccine, along with a list of vaccine clinics, here.