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FEBRUARY 18, 2021

Greetings BRSU Families,

As we approach the end of February break I wanted to connect with you about a couple of items.

I have spent extensive time this week partnering with the Vermont Department of Health, Principal DeBonis and Nurse Mandy Mayer at the Mettawee Community School regarding their recent COVID cases. We appreciate their partnership and support as we analyze the situation, learn about possible areas of vulnerability, and make adjustments to our practices. Attached to this letter you will see a copy of a letter Principal DeBonis sent out to the Mettawee community earlier today. In addition to the cases at Mettawee, The Dorset School also had a positive case and anyone who was identified as a close contact on Friday, February 12, was contacted earlier this week. I take every COVID case seriously and want to reassure you that we will learn, grow and adjust to keep our schools as safe as possible. I wish everyone the best in their recovery.

I would like to remind you that Tuesday evening, February 23, Taconic and Green Regional School District and Wednesday evening, February 24, Mettawee School District, will be holding Informational Hearings at 7:00pm regarding the district budgets to be voted on March 2, 2021. You are also able to complete an absentee ballot, which you should have received in the mail already. I encourage you to attend your District Informational Hearing so you can make an informed vote. These meetings will be held using Zoom and login information is available at www.brsu.org.

As a final reminder, if your child has engaged in any activities that require COVID-19 quarantine, please be sure they complete their quarantine. I ask that you contact your child’s teacher as soon as possible to let them know your child will be a remote learner next week. If you have any questions about when to test, do not hesitate to reach out to your school nurse, your primary care provider, or the Vermont Department of Health.

Thank you for your commitment to our schools, students, teachers and staff. It makes a huge difference!

Best,

Randi Lowe

Superintendent

FEBRUARY 12, 2021

Dear BRSU Families and Staff,

As we head into February break, I want to let you know that yesterday I was notified that two people tested positive for COVID-19 at the Mettawee Community School. Both of these people were in quarantine prior to their test, so they were not in school during their infectious period. Our practice of quarantining a class and associated staff continues to be effective and there was no additional exposure within the school.

Please continue to be careful--wear a mask, social distance, wash your hands and do not gather with others. I remain appreciative of everyone's efforts.

Best,

Randi Lowe

Superintendent

FEBRUARY 11, 2021

Dear BRSU Families,

As we approach February vacation, in the midst of high numbers of COVID cases, I want to share a few thoughts and requests with you. I realize you are likely tired of my emails related to COVID, and, as you might imagine, they are not easy for me to continue to send.

If your child is traveling or attending social gatherings over vacation, please have them complete the required quarantine. This means a quarantine for 7 days upon return, or from the last day of the gathering and then a COVID test, or a quarantine for 14 days and then return to school. Please let your child’s teacher and the school know they will be a remote learner the week after vacation, if this is the case. They will not be penalized for this scenario--we want them to access their education and to minimize the opportunity for the virus to enter our schools.

We are all fatigued and the strain of living through a pandemic for almost a year is wearing on all of us. I just read a Huff post article yesterday titled, “It’s Not Just You. A Lot of Us are Hitting a Pandemic Wall Right Now.” The need to escape is surging in many of us and with vacation on the horizon, it is tempting to throw caution to the wind. Please do not. If you need to get away, please return and follow the quarantine requirements.

At this point we intend to return to in-person instruction on February 22 and I hope this does not change over the course of next week, due to increased cases within our school communities. Should I determine we need to change course, I will let you know as soon as possible. Let’s hope this does not happen.

I wish you and yours health and safety over the next few weeks. Thank you for being mindful of your decisions and for caring for our community. Day after day, I feel deep gratitude to be here in the BRSU.

Best,

Randi Lowe

Superintendent

FEBRUARY 10, 2021

Good afternoon,

The Mettawee Community School will move to remote learning for the next two days. This decision was made because there are significant challenges with staffing, including people needing to quarantine and others awaiting test results. In assessing the situation, we could not sufficiently staff and safely operate the building. Families will hear from the school and teachers about what to expect for the next two days.

Best,

Randi Lowe

Superintendent

FEBRUARY 10, 2021

Good morning BRSU Community,

I wanted to let you know that yesterday a member of the Mettawee Community School tested positive for COVID-19. Given the timeline of communication with the Vermont Department of Health (VDH) last night, you are receiving an early morning email from me.

The school is going to have a remote learning day today for all students in order to deep clean the school and to provide us more time to work with the VDH to determine if there are any additional close contacts. Families will hear from Mettawee today, if your child is identified as a close contact.

I hope you and yours are healthy and I appreciate everyone’s effort to mitigate the spread of the virus. Please stay vigilant.

Best,

Randi Lowe

Superintendent

Open letter in support of teachers_ T&G (1).pdf
French 210208lt Educator Vaccinations T&G (1) (1).pdf

FEBRUARY 7, 2021

Good afternoon BRSU community,

Today I was notified that an individual at the Mettawee Community School tested positive with the coronavirus. Anyone who is considered a close contact who needs to quarantine, was notified this afternoon. If you have not heard from the school today you should plan on attending school tomorrow.

I am humbled as I think about this individual, and to consider the many other people who have been impacted by this virus. Please continue to be as careful as possible and to reduce exposure to others. We are not out of the woods, yet, and COVID-19 is still very much a presence in our communities. Take care and stay safe.

Best,

Randi Lowe

Superintendent

FEBRUARY 7, 2021

Good afternoon BRSU community,

Today I was notified that an individual at the Mettawee Community School tested positive with the coronavirus. Anyone who is considered a close contact who needs to quarantine, was notified this afternoon. If you have not heard from the school today you should plan on attending school tomorrow.

I am humbled as I think about this individual, and to consider the many other people who have been impacted by this virus. Please continue to be as careful as possible and to reduce exposure to others. We are not out of the woods, yet, and COVID-19 is still very much a presence in our communities. Take care and stay safe.

Best,

Randi Lowe

Superintendent

FEBRUARY 1, 2021

Greetings BRSU Families,

Given the weather forecast, feedback from town crews and recommendations from our Facilities Director, the BRSU will be having a remote learning day tomorrow for all students in all schools (Currier, Dorset, Flood Brook, Manchester, Mettawee and Sunderland), Tuesday, February 2, 2021. Phase 1 students will also be remote learners, due to the expected snowfall. The forecast has been pretty stable for the past 24 hours and, while the snow is not falling yet, there are consistent indicators it is coming.

One of the key reasons for this early notification is that we will be sending home meals with some students and our food service staff need time to prepare these, and deliver them to students this afternoon.

Students should plan on attending their daily class time with their teacher, and logging attendance as they do on Wednesdays. Teachers and staff will be working and will be available at the times they communicate to you, as long as we don’t have any power outages.

We will all do the best we can with this first remote learning day. As I said earlier in the year, at the end of the snow season, I will send a survey to hear how the experience was for everyone, to inform our planning for next winter. Stay safe out there tonight and tomorrow!

Best,

Randi Lowe

Superintendent

FEBRUARY 1, 2021

Good afternoon BRSU Community,

Today we were notified that the Currier Memorial School has a positive COVID-19 case. This individual was last in school on January 25 and anyone who requires quarantine or whose class schedule will be impacted, was notified by the school this afternoon.

The Sunderland Elementary School also has a positive case, and this individual has been under quarantine so there are no close contacts in the building. School will continue as scheduled for Sunderland.

Numbers remain higher than we would like in our region, so please continue to follow health and safety guidelines. We are all weary and eager for an end to these practices, but for the foreseeable future we need to stay the course. I appreciate your commitment to the health and safety of our school community and each other.

Best,

Randi Lowe

Superintendent

January 25, 2021

Good afternoon BRSU Community,

I am emailing to share two pieces of information with you. Today we were made aware that a member of the Dorset School community tested positive for COVID-19. This individual was last in school on January 19 and Ms. Moran has communicated directly with anyone impacted who will need to quarantine.

I also wanted to let you know that the Vermont Department of Health (VDH) notified us that there was likely transmission of the virus between two adults in the cases at MEMS last week. These are not new cases beyond what I shared last week. Our protocol of quarantining those who were close contacts worked as intended, ensuring anyone who was a close contact was home, quarantining, and then getting tested. This protocol is in place for exactly this reason.

This possible transmission is concerning and I have been assured by the VDH that this is a very unusual situation. The MEMS principals, nurse and I have carefully reviewed our protocols and where we may have points of vulnerability. As a result of our review, we will be actively working to ensure everyone in our schools have well fitting masks. If someone has a mask that does not fit well, we will provide them with one that does. We will be tightening up protocols around lunch/snack times, as well. These practices will provide one more level of support in our classrooms.

Please answer our screening questions honestly and to keep your child home if they are not feeling well. If someone in your family is quarantining, please follow quarantine protocols and ensure this person remains isolated from others in your home. I appreciate your close attention to these practices.

Best,

Randi Lowe

Superintendent

January 21, 2021

Good afternoon BRSU Families,

As you know, last week there were two positive COVID cases at MEMS. The classes and staff have been in quarantine since last Friday. Per the protocol, testing began on Tuesday and test results have been coming in.

Two additional people have tested positive. One individual was a direct close contact of a family member and the Vermont Department of Health has concluded that this case was not a result of contact in school. In the second case, the VDH is in the process of contact tracing with this person. They informed us that since this person has not been in school since last Thursday there are not any additional direct contacts in the school community with no need for any new classes to quarantine. We will continue to work closely with the Department of Health.

Best,

Randi Lowe

Superintendent

January 15, 2021

Good morning BRSU families and employees,

I am emailing to let you know that last night we were made aware of two positive COVID-19 cases at the Manchester Elementary Middle School. We were notified last night of the cases and the MEMS principals, nurse and I worked with the Vermont Department of Health, as we always do. Given the late timing, we were communicating with those involved late into the night. Our procedure is to contact those impacted before a more broad communication is sent, resulting in this early morning email. We will continue our work this morning and those impacted will receive additional detailed information.

With increasing cases across the state, please continue to follow the health and safety guidance including wearing a mask, socially distancing, washing your hands, and limiting in-person interactions with others.

Best,

Randi Lowe

Superintendent

January 14, 2021

Good afternoon BRSU families and employees,

I am emailing to let you know that we have a positive COVID-19 case at the Mettawee Community School. We were notified today of the case and the MCS principal, nurse and I are working with the Vermont Department of Health. Principal DeBonis will be communicating directly with families so please take a moment to check your email for this information. Those who require quarantine will hear from the school this afternoon.

With increasing cases across the state, please continue to follow the health and safety guidance including wearing a mask, socially distancing, washing your hands, and limiting in-person interactions with others who do not live in your home. We are all growing weary, but we need to continue with these practices. They make a difference.

Best,

Randi Lowe

Superintendent

December 22, 2020 - Updated guidance from governor Scott

Good afternoon BRSU Families,

I am emailing you with updated information from Governor Scott’s press conference today. It is wonderful to give you some positive news. Today Governor Scott made a change to the social gathering policy. He is allowing Vermont households to gather with one other trusted household between the dates of December 23 through January 2. This trusted household is one consistent household and people are encouraged to get COVID tested 7 days after the last day of gathering.

In addition to this adjustment, outdoor recreation has reverted back to prior guidance. You are permitted to be outside recreationally with others as long as you maintain physical distance and wear a mask, without needing to quarantine. We are encouraged to use an “arrive-play-leave” approach.

It has been a long few months for all of us and I wish you and yours a peaceful and healthy end of 2020 and start of 2021. Happy Holidays!

Best,

Randi Lowe

Superintendent

December 16, 2020 - Snow Day for Thursday, December 17, 2020

Good afternoon BRSU families,

With heavy snow in the forecast, I find myself making another important decision. Snow days have played a delightful and magical role in our lives and most of us can reflect on growing up glued in front of the TV hoping to see our town name scroll across the bottom of the screen followed by the word “CLOSED.”

If there was ever a time for us to all have a snow day, I believe it is now. While I work hard to be consistent, I am going to change course tomorrow. Tomorrow will be a snow day and will not include remote learning. I had wanted to share this news with you tomorrow morning but I know planning is important and helpful for many of you.

I hope you wake up to the joy of a fresh snowfall and take time tomorrow to fill up on the delight and simplicity of the excitement of your children. Join them in a ride on a sled, cut out paper snowflakes, creatively build abstract buildings from snow, or maybe sing Frosty the Snowman at the top of your lungs. Each of these offers important learning experiences and builds connection and opportunities for laughter and love.

The plan is for future “snow days” to be distance learning days and we will assess how it went closer to the end of the school year.

Snow days lend themselves to time with your family, but I want to remind you of the importance of this. The Governor did not change his Order, and the State of Emergency was extended until January 15. Please continue to follow protocols, including not traveling out of the state and or having multi-household gatherings. We live in a state in which our Governor is committed to doing what it takes to keep us healthy and for that I am appreciative.

Please be safe and enjoy the snow!

Best,

Randi Lowe

Superintendent

December 11, 2020 - Week of January 4


Dear Families,

I have spent a lot of time considering our calendar the week after December break. Thanksgiving was challenging for many and we do not know what state level guidance will be in place during or after our December break. This, combined with our known organizational needs led to the decision to adjust the school calendar for the first full week in January 2021. This decision was not simple or easy, but we hope that early communication affords everyone the time to make whatever arrangements are needed.


January 4 will be an additional vacation day for all students and staff. Our teachers will engage in professional development on January 5 and 6 and these are non-student days. January 7 and 8 will be distance learning days for ALL students. Please note that there will not be Phase 1 programming provided this week. We will return to in-person instruction on Monday, January 11 and we expect everyone who is not a distant learner to be ready to learn in person on January 11.

Monday, January 4, 2021: Vacation for all

Tuesday, January 5, 2021: Teacher professional development: No school for students

Wednesday, January 6, 2021: Teacher professional development: No school for students

Thursday, January 7, 2021: Distance Learning for students

Friday, January 8, 2021: Distance Learning for students

Monday, January 11, 2021: Return to In-Person Instruction for students

Breakfast and lunch will be provided by schools for pick up on January 7 and 8 for those who would like it. Please email Kelly Foster (kfoster@brsu.org) if you would like meals for your child.

In addition to this calendar change, I want to let you know that inclement weather (“snow”) days will be distance learning days this winter. We have an opportunity to pilot this approach given our teaching and learning model. At the end of the snow season we will survey families and employees to determine if it is something we should continue in the future. Whenever possible, we will make this decision by the end of the school day prior to the snow day. We all know that this is an imperfect process, but we will do our best with the weather forecast we have.

These changes will not impact the end of the school year, with June 11 remaining as the last day of school for students.

Best,

Randi Lowe, EdD

Superintendent

November 25, 2020 - Mettawee Student Tested Positive

Dear BRSU Families and Employees,

This morning we were notified that a student at the Mettawee Community School tested positive for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) .

Principal DeBonis, Nurse Mayer and I have been working closely with the Vermont Department of Health to determine close contacts. On November 23, 2020, the state changed their contact tracing protocol and schools are now responsible for communicating with teachers, staff, and families. Teachers and staff, families with children at the school, and families of the class impacted, are being sent communication. If you receive a call from the school, please answer, as we are sharing important information to you.

Positive cases are increasing throughout the country and we are no longer an exception here in Vermont. Governor Scott recently increased restrictions and I implore everyone to be vigilant and continue to take steps to limit the spread of COVID-19. The most important actions you can take are to wear a mask, stay six feet from others, and wash your hands. Keep your child home if they are sick and call your primary care provider if you or your child has symptoms of COVID-19.

Yesterday I shared with you information regarding the updated Governor’s Order regarding multi-household gatherings. I would be remiss to not recognize that while I know the Order was difficult for many of us right before Thanksgiving, my hope is that if we can make the sacrifices we need to now, it will yield future benefits. If you require quarantine, please stay home.

We will continue to work with the Health Department to keep our community safe. Our cleaning protocols at Mettawee follow the Health Department guidance and the classroom was thoroughly disinfected today. Anyone who is sick will not return to school until they are healthy and those requiring quarantine as a result of this case will do so. Click the link to learn more about getting tested in Vermont.

Thank you for understanding that, due to medical privacy laws, we are not able to release the name of the individual with COVID-19. We are a learning community who care about each other and treat each other with dignity and respect. I strongly encourage us to remember that stigmatizing our community members does not lead to improved outcomes. We will continue to communicate changes and updates with those impacted by this case.

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to:

  • Randi Lowe, BRSU Superintendent

  • Brooke DeBonis, Mettawee Community School Principal

  • Mandy Mayer, Mettawee Community School Nurse


Best,

Randi Lowe, EdD

Superintendent

November 24, 2020 - Governor's order

Greetings BRSU Families,

This Thanksgiving holiday will be different than any of us have faced before. The Governor has directed us to not mix households, specifically not gather with people who do not live in your home, and stay within the state. This is hard for everyone, but with positive COVID cases rising throughout the state I implore you to follow the Governor’s Order. If you engage in activities that require quarantine (exposure to the virus, travel out of the state, and multi-household gatherings), or if you are wondering if your child should quarantine after the holidays, please be conservative and do so.

As directed by the Governor today, we will be adding a screening question to our screening process next Monday. This new question will be, “Has your child attended any multi-household gatherings that require quarantine?” Please expect this and be prepared to answer it after Thanksgiving.

Our instructional model is designed to allow students to move between in-person and distance learning. If your child requires quarantine after Thanksgiving, please follow your school protocol for notifying them that your child will be a distance learner. There is nothing negative about this and your child will not be penalized. I deeply appreciate your commitment to doing your part to keep our schools open. Quarantining when it is required will go a long way to helping this happen.

Thanksgiving this year presents an opportunity for us to put traditional practices on hold and to creatively consider something new and different. It has been quite a year, and I hope you find opportunities for gratitude. As I pause and consider this statement, there are many things to be grateful for in my life and being a part of our school community nears the top of my list. We have incredible students, teachers, staff and families and it is a privilege to walk this journey with you. Take care and I wish you and yours a peaceful and healthy Thanksgiving.

Best,

Randi Lowe, EdD

Superintendent

November 12, 2020

Dear BRSU Families,

We are navigating unprecedented times and I am reaching out to connect with you about the COVID-19 virus. Before doing so, however, I would like to take a moment to offer sincere gratitude and respect to the military Veterans who have fought and sacrificed for our freedom and our country. To those in our communities who have served, thank you for your service.

As we know, COVID-19 cases are increasing at a concerning rate across the country, and unfortunately, we are not immune to this trend. I want nothing more than to keep our schools open and the only way we have a chance of achieving this is if we continue to stay vigilant and follow Governor Scott and Dr. Levine’s guidance. Please limit contact with those outside of your close circle of family and friends, wear masks and socially distance from others. If you travel, please be honest and follow the quarantine requirements, which now requires a quarantine for all non-essential travel outside of Vermont. I encourage everyone to regularly review the Agency of Commerce and Community Development website for the most up to date information.

As we approach the holidays this is all even more difficult, but I am asking you to follow the practices we know work to mitigate the spread of the virus. This pandemic is taking a toll on each of us and I know how hard it is. I also know we are a community that comes together and cares for one another. Thank you in advance for your continued safe practices. We are in this together. Please take care and stay vigilant.

Best,

Randi Lowe

October 30, 2020

Taconic & Green Board Proudly Welcomes Student Representatives

Just prior to the final vote on the appointment of the first two Student Representatives to the Taconic & Green School District Board, Chairman Herb Ogden raised one final question. “We have been a collegial working group, referring to each other by first name. Shouldn’t we encourage these two young members to do the same?” On the Zoom computer screen, the faces of the dozen T&G Board members present smiled and nodded with thumbs raised. The final vote was unanimous.

T&G, meet Lexi and Sam.

Alexandria “Lexi” Lacoste comes to the T&G Board with a passionate interest in mental health education and a love of learning and the arts. As she starts her Junior year at Burr & Burton Academy (BBA), Lexi already has earned the prestigious Headmaster Award, in addition to the Scholar Leader Award for excellence in the classroom and leadership. Lexi’s passion manifests in a myriad of interests, none more so than her work for the Yellow Tulip Project, a student organization focused on mental health. She also plays left field for BBA’s softball team and earns raves as a trumpet performer. Lexi’s instructors consider her a leader and an advocate for her peers and community.

“I want to walk away with new leadership experiences, a new outlook on school and an understanding on how to attack problems for the greater community”, explained Lexi, describing what she hopes to learn from her new role as a Student Representative. "I hope to learn how to collaborate for and work with people who are of different ages and backgrounds. I also hope to walk away with the knowledge that I made a difference in young kids’ lives.”

Samantha “Sam” Stevenson is known as an effective communicator with a great sense of humor. In her first two years at BBA, Sam earned a reputation as a hardworking honor student, with an intuitive gift for listening and collaborating. Her perseverance and determination shows up not only in the classroom, but also in athletics where she has been a competitive swimmer for eight years, as well as, a starter at center defense for the BBA Field Hockey Team. In her spare time, Sam serves as a BBA Ambassador, where she confidently fields questions about the school as she guides visitors on campus tours. Sam’s teachers point to her natural curiosity and ability to connect that comes in handy as she pursues her love of science and politics.

That interest in politics attracted Sam to apply for the T&G Student Representative post. “I enjoyed learning about politics in AP Government, but my favorite part of the class was the lively discussion and debate among opposing viewpoints. I enjoy thinking of ways to bring people together, put differences aside, and find common ground. I’m very interested in policy and how it affects students of all ages.”

Lexi and Sam start their one-year tenure at the November Board Meeting. Both BBA Juniors are eager to get to work and the Board can’t wait to add the students' experience to their team. “When we started our search, we weren’t sure what to expect,” says BRSU Superintendent Randi Lowe. “But with Sam and Lexi, we were fortunate to find two great young women.”


Lexi Lacoste, T&G Board Student Representative


Sam Stevenson, T&G Board Student Representative

October 26, 2020

A Strong and Health Start - Safety and Health Guidance for Reopening Schools, Fall 2020

Issued by the Vermont Agency of Education and the Vermont Department of Health

Issued: June 16, 2020

Revised: October 23, 2020

Effective: November 16, 2020

October 11, 2020

Dear Families and Employees,

On the evening of October 10, 2020 we were notified of a student with a positive antigen test for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) at the Manchester Elementary Middle School (MEMS). The principals and nurse at MEMS and I immediately began collecting information and have been working closely with the Vermont Department of Health throughout the day. Given the circumstances surrounding this particular situation and the fact that this student was a close contact to someone who tested positive, the Vermont Department of Health is considering this a positive COVID-19 case.

Out of an abundance of caution the kindergarten classes at MEMS will stay home and participate in distance learning the week of October 12, 2020. We will determine later in the week if we are able to provide in-person instruction the week of October 19, 2020. The Department of Health contact tracers will be calling the families of students in the same cohort today. Please answer the phone if the Health Department calls you. A contact tracer may be trying to reach you with important information.

We recommend that everyone continue to take action to limit the spread of COVID-19, even if your child is not experiencing symptoms. The most important thing you can do is to make sure your child is wearing a mask and washing their hands. Keep them home if they're sick and call your primary care provider if you or your child has symptoms of COVID-19.

COVID-19 spreads mainly from having close contact with someone who has the COVID-19 infection. The virus is thought to spread by droplets from person to person when they speak, cough, or sneeze. Droplets travel less than 6 feet. When droplets from another person get in your mouth or nose you can inhale into your lungs. This virus can be spread by people without symptoms.

We will continue to work with the Health Department to keep our community safe. Our cleaning protocols at MEMS follow the Health Department guidance and the classroom space will be disinfected, again, prior to being used. Employees and sick children will not return to work until they are healthy. Click the link to learn more about getting tested in Vermont.

Thank you for understanding that, due to medical privacy laws, we are not able to release the name of the individual with COVID-19. We are a learning community who care about each other and treat each other with dignity and respect. I strongly encourage us to remember that stigmatizing our community members does not lead to improved outcomes. We will continue to communicate changes and updates with those impacted by this case.

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to:

Randi Lowe, BRSU Superintendent

Deb Fishwick, Principal

Betsy Memoe, Principal

Peggy Roberts, MEMS School Nurse


Sincerely,

Randi Lowe, EdD

Superintendent



September 17, 2020

BRSU Celebrates Teachers and Staff

COVID-19 may have changed the venue, but the virus could not dampen the spirits at the ceremony for the recipients of this year’s Bennington-Rutland Supervisory Union (BRSU) Teacher and Staff Awards. Instead of a school auditorium, first-year BRSU Superintendent Randi Lowe revealed the honorees on a computer screen packed with 217 cheering and applauding participants. “This ceremony is always uplifting,” Lowe says. "But this year, after all the hard work and challenges we faced together, we really needed to celebrate.”

BRSU tradition calls for teachers to be acknowledged every year in two categories. First, fellow instructors nominate and select one of their own for BRSU Teachers of the Year. To be eligible for this honor, an instructor must have at least three years of experience at the BRSU and had not previously received the distinction. For 2020, the Teachers of the Year recipients are Laura Aghajanian, a Speech-Language Pathologist at the Mettawee Community School and Erin McCall, the Librarian at the Manchester Elementary Middle School.

The BRSU also nominates two teachers each year for the University of Vermont (UVM) list of Outstanding Teachers from across the state. This award honors educators who best exemplify five standards of teaching: learning, professional knowledge, advocacy, colleagueship and accountability. BRSU principals and senior staff recommend a short list of BRSU instructors for the UVM special designation. The final decision for the two BRSU recipients rests with the Superintendent. Selected this year for UVM Outstanding Teachers: Tracy Zaino, Middle School Math teacher from the Flood Brook School and Richard Zelenetz, Early Language Learning (ELL) Interventionist for the BRSU.

In addition to the faculty awards, this year the BRSU instituted a third category of honorees, the Annual Staff Award, to recognize the vital contributions made daily by paraeducators, custodians, chefs, bus drivers and administrators. “Our staff is an integral part of our academic team and the fact that 37 staff members were nominated by the teachers for the new award demonstrates their importance,” Lowe says. It fell to Superintendent Lowe to choose the four staff award winners: Denise Fisher, Paraeducator at the Mettawee Community School; Kelly Leggett, Administrative Assistant at The Dorset School; Dave Champine, Facilities Manager at Currier Memorial School; and Bill Amatruto, Custodian at the Sunderland Elementary School.

A list of the BRSU honorees in each category, plus comments from their BRSU colleagues follow:

BRSU Teachers of the Year

Laura Aghajanian

Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP), Mettawee Community School: “Laura calmly and patiently manages students in crisis and handles tricky family dynamics in the most professional way. She is an advocate for her students and is willing to try and even develop new things to help them to reach their learning goals. Her students can count on her to provide fun and consistent specialized instruction, full of care and encouragement.”

Erin McCall

Librarian, Manchester Elementary Middle School: “Erin went above and beyond in her duties as the librarian at MEMS this year. Her distance learning website was incredible. She created videos and read books aloud for all levels of students. She engages with students who might otherwise struggle to be seen and heard, and is passionate about what she teaches. She has a great sense of humor and is dedicated. MEMS is immensely fortunate to have her.”

University of Vermont Outstanding Teachers

Tracy Zaino

Middle School Math Teacher, Flood Brook School: “Tracy is a master teacher, instinctively differentiating her teaching to meet every child on their level, and really knows her stuff when it comes to mathematics and instruction. She consistently demonstrates a deep knowledge of her students as learners and people, and is always willing to do whatever is needed to meet student needs. Tracy continues to bring calm, intelligence and a strong belief in equity and that all students can succeed. She is truly the model of a caring, flexible and helpful teacher.”

Richard Zelenetz

Early Language Learning (ELL) Interventionist for the BRSU: “Richard’s drive and willingness to try new things to do whatever it takes to connect with the population with which he works is inspiring. He is an amazing advocate for students and parents, and worked tirelessly to help us stay connected to families who we would have lost during the remote learning time period. His quiet, confident disposition allows for colleagues to easily connect with him and work together to support learners. Richard always has a smile on his face and inspiring words for all!”

BRSU Staff Awards

Bill Amatruto

Custodian, Sunderland Elementary: “Bill is a great guy and a true team player. He consistently, patiently, and graciously fixes, cleans, and looks after our building and its occupants. No matter how challenging, he responds to each request with thoughtful thoroughness. Repairs happen immediately, changes are thought through and done well. Bill seems to get along well with everyone in the building-- faculty, administration, staff and students are all greeted with a quiet smile and an open welcome. Bill is the backbone to all of the happenings at Sunderland School.”

Denise Fisher

Paraeducator, Mettawee Community School: “Denise is a dedicated, amazing paraeducator. She is an endless support for at risk readers. She is flexible, pleasant and supportive to staff, kids and families alike. She has been a part of Mettawee for many years, teaching students of all ages how to read and write. She supports students and teachers and is always willing to help in any way - from supporting readers and being a PTO member to going on field trips and being outside at recess every day.”

Dave Champine

Facilities Manager, Currier Memorial Elementary: “Dave has skills in so many areas, I can't imagine the Currier School without him! He is great with the kids and a good role model. He is innovative, always finding a solution that will work. He takes his responsibilities seriously and always makes himself available for everyone, no matter how busy he is. Not only does he clean, re-stock, sanitize, get the mail, feed the fish during breaks, come in on weekends to check on the building, but he also is a friend, mentor, and kind face to all the students in the building.”

Kelly Leggett

Administrative Assistant, The Dorset School: “Kelly has been a great help to the staff, students, and parents at Dorset. She is the go to person who knows the answer to many procedures, students' information, and countless other aspects of daily life at the school. Kelly always greets you with a smile and listens to you no matter how busy she is... which it is always. She is an invaluable resource, good friend and a kind member of our school community.”

September 4, 2020

Dear BRSU Families,

It is hard to believe that we are entering Labor Day weekend and next Tuesday we officially begin the 2020-21 school year. The planning and preparation for this year has been unlike anything I have been a part of in my career and the year will be unlike any school year we have experienced in our lifetime.

Our leaders have been working hard to plan for the opening of school, creating processes, and safety and health protocols to ensure our schools are ready and building out our educational model. Our teachers have spent the last nine days on a professional development and planning learning curve unlike any they have experienced before. They have used every minute of every day preparing for the start of the school year. I am very proud of the work our teachers and staff have done to prepare for the year.

Our school year opening plan was designed to provide time to implement our new processes and protocols and to adjust, as needed, prior to the start of Phase 2, when our students in grades K-5(6) return to schools in their assigned cohort. We expect that initially things may not flow perfectly, but we will be attentive to what requires adjustment. Our instructional model is new for everyone and we will grow together. Please partner with our teachers as we all implement and learn.

Here is our Family Guide to Distance Learning and we have created an e-learning site to support you in understanding our instructional model. We will continue to add to this site over time.

We are ready. We are keeping our focus on the main tenets that will mitigate the spread of COVID-19: wearing facial coverings, keeping appropriate social distance, washing our hands, using effective cleaning procedures and staying home when we are sick. We are starting our year slowly to provide the time to implement well. We expect that a slower, intentional start will lead to longer, more sustainable outcomes. Thank you for your patience and support as we start the year. This is the time for us to come together as a community for our children, teachers and staff, which will help keep us healthy and engaged in effective educational practices. I appreciate you doing your part to make this happen and I look forward to the start of the year.

Best,

Randi Lowe, EdD

Superintendent

September 2, 2020 - Family Health Guide

Family Health Guide

August 14, 2020

Dear BRSU Community,

As we move closer to the start of the school year, I am asking for your help to start the year with, and continue to maintain, safe school communities. The recently updated Strong and Healthy Start document developed by the Vermont Agency of Education, recognizes that community (not school) transmission will be the primary mode of infection for the COVID-19 virus. Therefore, I need your help in following social distancing practices, avoiding large gatherings of people and keeping your circle of contacts as small as possible. I am reminding everyone that this is a time for us to support our children and staff by following the practices that keep transmission levels low.

I want to be sure that everyone is aware of the state’s restrictions on out of state leisure travel. The Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD) website provides the most up to date travel restrictions for Vermonters. Every Friday this page is updated with new information and color codes a map of counties across the northeast region of the United States. The map uses the colors red and yellow to identify areas that require quarantine upon returning to Vermont. In recent weeks, there have been significant changes to this map. Leisure travel to any yellow or red county requires quarantine upon return to Vermont.

If your child has traveled to one of these yellow or red areas, your child should not attend school in-person unless they have observed the required quarantine. Detailed information about quarantine requirements is available at the Vermont Department of Health website. Please contact your school principal if your child finds themselves in a quarantine situation when they are scheduled to return to in-person instruction.

We are starting this school year under conditions we have not faced before. I have been reminded countless times this summer about our community’s strength, resiliency and compassion. I am asking you, on behalf of our children and our incredible teachers and staff, to follow the health and safety guidelines being asked of us.

Best,

Randi Lowe, EdD

Superintendent

July 21, 2020

Dear BRSU Families,

This morning was the final Team Lead meeting for our Phase 2 re-entry planning teams. I would like to thank those people involved in this important Phase 2 work--they have done a terrific job. These teams made recommendations to guide the school-level planning and will serve as a template for this work.

Logistics and Scheduling: SkylerLaBombard, Rosanna Moran, Bjorn Berhendt, Johanna Davis, Paul Eaton., Greg Harrington., Giom, Mike Dinsmore, Lauren Magrath, Deb Fishwick., Joey Blane

Operations: Greg Harrington, Carolyn Parillo, Kelly Foster, Derek Chalmers, Necole Zemp, Christopher Lackney

Instruction: Skyler LaBombard, Brooke DeBonis, Caitlin Cavagnino, Bjorn Berhendt, Jenn Turner, Sonja Thorley, Robin Sirois, Tracy Hughes, Carinthia Grayson, Amanda Penge, Scott Diedrich

Physical Health: Mandy Mayer, Neal McIntyre, Peggy Roberts, Mark Weikert, Janna Webb, Brian Jennings, Christopher Lackney

Social/Emotional Health: Betsy Memoe, Paul Eaton, Beth Barclay, Mary Hissong, Colleen Jennings, Sarena Barausky, Karyn Stannard

Communication: Jenn Turner, Randi Lowe, Skyler LaBombard, Chris Scudder, Bob Niles

Phase 3 begins the building level discussions and I will spend the next two days with our building leaders framing out their work, diving into equity training and beginning to set goals for the year. There are many SU level decisions that are still being made and this will continue throughout the month of August.

Please see the attached document with a planning update. I appreciate your continued patience and support. As you know, there is a lot going on and we are keeping the health and safety of our students and adults at the center of our educational decision making.

BRSU Update 072120.pdf

Best,

Randi Lowe

BRSU Superintendent

July 10, 2020

Dear BRSU Families,

We are working on our re-entry plan for school and I want to share an update with you. As you know, things are fluid and we are planning from the current guidance, and responding to new information when it is received.

The most important statement I want to make is that we need your support and partnership in a way we never have before. We want to open our schools safely at the maximum capacity possible and it will take a community to successfully do so.

The VT Agency of Education is requiring adults and children to wear facial coverings in schools. People have different perspectives about the use of facial coverings and we are all entitled to our personal opinions. However, when it comes to attendance at school, the current guidance is clear--we need to wear them. You can help us in a couple of different ways. A positive attitude with your child about wearing a facial covering at school will go a long way to helping us meet this requirement. Explaining to your child that this is something we wear to school now, and that it is important to cover our mouths and noses to keep everyone safe and healthy, would be enormously helpful. Wearing facial coverings at home over the summer will help get your child used to wearing one inside, which will also help them be successful when we return to school. I deeply appreciate your support with this transition.

We will conduct health screenings at the first point of contact between a child and school. If they ride the bus, the screening will occur at the bus stop prior to boarding. If they are being driven or walking/biking to school, the screening will occur before your child enters the building. An adult will need to stay with your child until they have been cleared to enter the bus/building. We are exploring the possibility of an online screening, but cannot confirm now that this will occur. We will update you as decisions are made.

School meals will be delivered to classrooms and students will eat with their class at the start of the year. Given that food will be transported through the building, breakfast and lunch options will meet FDA guidelines but will primarily be cold food options. When possible, feeding your child breakfast at home or sending in a lunch from home would be incredibly helpful for us. Feeding our children in their classrooms will take more time so whatever you can do to help will make a big difference.

We will be operating buses, but with the need to screen students before getting on the bus, routes will likely be different than in the past. Our transportation team is working hard to problem solve and troubleshoot through different scenarios. As soon as information is available, we will share it with you.

Finally, we are requesting information to help us in making a couple of decisions. We are trying to get a sense of how many students may be riding a bus, so please let us know about your intention to do so. We are also seeking your feedback regarding the return to in-person instruction and appreciate you sharing your thoughts around the potential of a completely remote learning option. Please complete this google form by July 17 to address these two topics. Your responses are not binding in any way, but will give us an initial sense of what families are currently thinking.

I will be sending out another email communication next Friday to update you on our work.

Best,

Randi Lowe

BRSU Superintendent

June 24, 2020 - School Reopening Plan

I will be communicating with you throughout the summer with updates and information as we plan for school reopening in the fall, so please check your email every couple of weeks. I will do my best to share with you our progress and decisions as they are developed. I have a terrific team of people working hard to develop a re-entry plan that prioritizes safety as well as the developmental needs of our students.

A Phase 1 Planning Team composed of 14 parents, teachers and administrators developed a comprehensive list of considerations and needs in six primary areas, scheduling and logistics, operations, instruction, physical health, social-emotional health and communication, that served as the foundation for the Phase 2 Teams. Our Phase 2 work is underway and we have teams developing our SU plan in each of the six areas. There are more than 40 people engaged in this work including parents, nurses, facilities, food service, teachers, instructional coaches and building and central office administrators. We will be consulting with others including students as plans are developed. I expect this work to be completed by the third week of July, at which point we will transition to Phase 3, which is when the schools will develop their specific building level models.

I know many of you are worried about the upcoming year and what school will be like for your child. Please know that we are doing everything possible to keep our school community safe while finding creative ways to prioritize relationships, safety and trust. We recognize the tension between the health and safety guidelines and our student’s social-emotional and developmental needs. I am encouraging creative, out of the box thinking with a focus on establishing community and relationships when we reconvene. When children feel safe and connected they are ready to learn.

Superintendent Wilson mentioned this in a recent communication, but I wanted to reiterate that we are asking you to be mindful of the quarantine requirements should you travel out of state this summer. We will be following the most up to date guidance when we return to school and would hate for students to not be able to return to school due to recent travel.

We will need your partnership in new ways. As we develop schedules and new procedures I will be asking you for your support in implementation. We have a fantastic community and I know that together we will do what is best for our children. Thanks for your patience and support as we plan for the upcoming school year.

Best,

Randi Lowe, Assistant Superintendent

BRSU Equity Letter - June 3, 2020

Dear Parents/Guardians and Staff,

The current circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic and the current unrest sparked by the recent death of George Floyd have brought us, as a country, to a place of examination of our own systems to ensure they are welcoming to minority and marginalized groups. Our hearts go out to George Floyd’s family and to all who are impacted by the long-standing issues of discrimination, racism, violence, and injustice perpetrated in our country. We believe in the right of all Americans to peacefully protest and have their voices heard so that all Americans, particularly our brothers and sisters of color, be treated with dignity, respect, and justice.

As a school district, we are committed to doing our part to address racial inequities that currently exist within the system. We recognize that this may make many of us uncomfortable and serve as a challenge to our privilege. We pledge our commitment to work toward equity for all students and to raise awareness of implicit bias so that we can work together for change. We are in the initial stages of assembling a team to plan for implicit bias and equity training. Classrooms provide an opportunity for children to learn to value and respect diversity and differences in order to foster more inclusive environments in our schools and community. We, as educators, have both an opportunity and a responsibility to teach not only academic subjects, but to also teach acceptance, empathy, tolerance, and compassion. We will continue to work toward all students feeling safe, accepted, and cared for.

We realize that these recent tragic events may bring up questions for your children. We are sharing some resources below that may be helpful to you as staff, parents, and community members. As always please feel free to reach out to your child’s school for support. We are committed to doing this hard and uncomfortable work to ensure that all children live, learn, and play in safe, supportive communities and schools with access to equitable systems, supports, and opportunities.

Below please find some links that might be helpful in discussing these events with our children:

Supporting Vulnerable Students in Stressful Times: Tip for Parents

https://www.nasponline.org/resources-and-publications/resources-and-podcasts/diversity/social-justice/supporting-vulnerable-students-in-stressful-times-tips-for-parents

Discussing Hate and Violence with Children

https://www.adl.org/education/resources/tools-and-strategies/discussing-hate-and-violence-with-children

Helping Students Make Sense about News Stories about Bias and Injustice

https://www.adl.org/education/resources/tools-and-strategies/helping-students-make-sense-of-news-stories-about-bias-and

Talking to Children about Tragedies and Other News Events

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/Media/Pages/Talking-To-Children-About-Tragedies-and-Other-News

Understanding Race and Privilege

https://www.nasponline.org/resources-and-publications/resources-and-podcasts/diversity/social-justice/understanding-race-and-privilege

Resources for Discussing Police Violence, Race, and Racism with Students

http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/rulesforengagement/2016/07/resources_for_discussing_police_violence_and_addressing_trauma_with_students.html?cmp=eml-contshr-shr

How to Support Your Child’s Resilience in a Time of Crisis

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/emotional-wellness/Building-Resilience/Pages/How-to-Support-Your-Childs-Resilience-in-a-Time-of-Crisis.aspx

Responding to Children’s Emotional Needs During Times of Crisis

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/emotional-wellness/Pages/Responding-to-Childrens-Emotional-Needs-During-Times-of-Crisis.aspx

Talking Race to Young Children

https://www.npr.org/2019/04/24/716700866/talking-race-with-young-children

How to Talk to Kids about Race and Racism

https://www.parenttoolkit.com/social-and-emotional-development/advice/social-awareness/how-to-talk-to-kids-about-race-and-racism

How Racism Harms Children

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/how-racism-harms-children-2019091417788

Talking to Children about Racial Bias

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/emotional-wellness/Building-Resilience/Pages/Talking-to-Children-About-Racial-Bias.aspx

Sincerely,

Jackie Wilson, Superintendent

Randi Lowe, Assistant Superintendent

Skyler LaBombard, Director of Teaching and Learning

Carolyn Parillo, Principal, Currier Memorial School

Neal McIntyre, Principal Flood Brook School

Betsy Memoe, Co-Principal, Manchester Elementary Middle School

Deb Fishwick, Co-Principal, Manchester Elementary Middle School

Brooke DeBonis, Principal, Mettawee Community School

Jennifer Turner, Principal, Sunderland Elementary School

Rosanna Moran, Principal, The Dorset School