EMAIL VSNB

Back to School Letter – August 31, 2020

Dear K-6 Families,

Today is the first official day back at the school for all faculty and staff, and we are EXCITED to welcome your students on September 8! After a summer of intense planning and preparation, it’s hard to believe that opening day is just around the corner. When I was talking about the school’s reopening to my three children, who attend the Village School, they were astonished counting the months since the school closure: almost six months of no school in-person! That’s a long time for our students to have missed out on being in school learning with their teachers and friends.

There’s a lot of information to take in with this letter, and I’d like to let you know upfront that I will be holding a virtual town hall on Thursday, September 3, at 7 p.m. for you to ask questions about the reopening of school. The Zoom invite will be sent via text and email on Thursday afternoon.

We recognize that students have had different experiences during this global pandemic, and not everyone will be in the same place. I want to assure you that our first priority will be students’ health, safety, and social-emotional wellbeing. Sure, we have admirable academic ambitions, but academics will be secondary as we adjust to the new routines of being back in school during this exceptional time.

The faculty and staff have been preparing for much of the summer to teach and support students in their dual modalities of in-person instruction and distance learning. The majority of our students will be returning for in-person learning, and we are also glad that families whose students are not coming back for health concerns or other reasons, have the option for their children to learn from home.

As I have stated several times this summer in communications and during our virtual town hall meetings with families, we are fortunate to live in the “green” state of Vermont. The fact that our state currently has the lowest number of COVID-19 cases in the country is a key factor that enabled our school to even consider reopening. If the level of community transmission increases in our region, we will work under the guidance of local and state officials to determine if the school should close for in-person instruction. If this happens, the school has plans in place to be able to pivot to distance learning at any time.

Distance Learning:

We will be using a terrific new online instructional platform that is especially designed for K-6 learners. It is called Seesaw, and Technology Director Amanda Bickford, along with the Classroom Teachers, will introduce it to students during their first week of school. Additionally, we will be using the Zoom platform for class meetings with teachers. All students, including those in kindergarten and first grade, will have a Chromebook. 

Cleaning the School Building:

The school building has been thoroughly cleaned and set up according to all the guidelines and recommendations from the Vermont Agency of Education, the Vermont Department of Health, and the Vermont Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).  In most cases, classrooms have not been moved around. The two exceptions are second grade and sixth grade. It’s impressive to see how Mr. Ulrich has transformed the gym into a welcoming classroom space! The sixth graders have the good fortune of spending their days in our school library. You might be wondering, where will the library books go? They will be stored in the reading classroom, and Mrs. Driscoll will be in charge of distributing books for all students. These are just a few examples of the changes we have made throughout the school to ensure that we are complying with all of the most important health and safety guidelines and standards for students and staff. In making these changes, I would like to express my appreciation to Operations Manager Rachel Maher and Custodian Bob Elwell for all their hard work to prepare the school building for reopening.

Staff Changes:

I am pleased to share that all of our teachers  are returning to school, although you may not recognize the name of one of them: Mrs. Coulter. It’s with much joy that I announce fifth grade teacher Samantha Strubel’s marriage to Jesse Coulter! Please join us in congratulating Mrs. Coulter.

A few teaching assistants are not returning to school, as they are pursuing other professional interests. We would like to thank these individuals and wish them well: Arielle Gingold, Paige Harrington, and Olivia Schneider.

Notably, Ray Mullineaux is retiring from his role as the night-time custodian, and we extend our deepest gratitude to him for all the work he has done on behalf of our school. Many of you know Mr. Mullineaux not only in his capacity at the school, but also because of his incredible, tireless service to our community as the Chair of the North Bennington Graded School District Prudential Committee. Fortunately, he will be continuing to serve on the Prudential Committee, and, in this capacity, he will still be interacting with our school and looking after the best interests of our students, staff, and community.

We have hired three new teaching assistants and two new custodians. The custodians will not only be cleaning during the day and into the early evening, but they also will be disinfecting the school each evening. If anyone has questions about the cleaning procedures, you can reach out to Mrs. Maher at 802-442-5955 or rmaher@vsnb.org.

Back-to-School FAQs:

Later this week, we will email the FAQs concerning the procedures for drop-off, pick-up, health screenings, meals, etc. This same communication will be mailed to each family, along with a free and reduced lunch application. You should also expect to hear from your student’s classroom teacher this week, if you have not already. Faculty and staff are at the school full-time this week as they prepare for students’ return. Please feel free to reach out to them if you have any questions. The School Nurse Kaitlyn Hewson (khewson@vsnb.org) and Guidance Counselor Tom Hudak (thudak@vsnb.org) will also be available. To reach them by phone, call the school at 802-442-5955.

Schedule:

All students returning for in-person learning will be kept with their full class as one cohort. The first day of school for In-Person Instruction will be September 8, and it will be a half day. We will have school in-person for full days from Wednesday, September 9 – Friday, September 11.

Please note: students who are doing the Distance-Learning-Only option will start on Thursday, September 10Your student’s classroom teacher will reach out to you soon with a daily instruction schedule.

The following week (Monday, Sept. 14 – Friday, Sept. 18) we will move into the “new normal” schedule: School will be held in-person on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Wednesday will be the designated day for all students to do distance learning, starting on Wednesday, September 16. The updated school calendar is available on our website at https://vsnb.org/calendar.

Back to School Supplies:

For those of you thinking about back-to-school shopping, there are no special school supplies that you need to purchase for your student(s) unless your student’s teacher has notified you otherwise. You should, however, be prepared to send your student(s) to school every day with a clean face mask and a reusable water bottle. The water fountains will NOT be available for use, but students will be able to fill up their water bottles in their classroom’s sink. If your family is not able to purchase face masks or water bottles, please reach out to Ms. Kait at khewson@vsnb.org or 802-442-5955. Additionally, we are asking each family to send your student to school on the first day with a wide-mouth container (a Rubbermaid-type of a container or a washed yogurt or cottage cheese container). Students will use these containers to hold their face coverings during meals and snack time.

 A limited supply of backpacks with school supplies is also being supplied by the Southern Vermont Medical Center (SVMC). If your student(s) needs a backpack, please reach out to Ms. Kait.

Community Commitment Reminder:

Importantly, if you have not read and signed off on the school’s Community Commitment, you must do so before your student can return to school. Our ability to stay safe is only as strong as our shared commitment to each other. We are doing our part to make the school as safe as possible, and now we are asking each community member to do their part in adhering to the COVID-19 health and safety best practices and guidelines put forth in this document.

We look forward to being in touch again next week. Please do not hesitate to contact me at tnewbold@vsnb.org or 802-442-5955 ext. 201 if you have any questions.

Warm regards,

Tim Newbold

Head of School

Mission

Children are at the heart of all we do. We nurture a child's curiosity, ignite enthusiasm for exploring, develop tools for inquiry, for invention, for achievement. We welcome families into a community-wide collaboration to help our children grow into their best selves - responsible citizens and stewards of the greater world, makers of the future.