School district opening update By Elaine Pinckney

The countdown is on. 

This week, you may be doing last-minute school shopping, getting your school year schedules in order and anticipating all the joy and trepidation that a new year brings. In this regard, this year is no different than any other. 

Your kids will be waiting with bated breath to see their new classrooms, to re-engage with new and old friends, to meet their new teacher — or to get their home “office” set up for participation in the Champlain Valley School District Virtual Learning Academy. 

At CVSD, we also are working right up to the deadline to make sure everything is in place for our hybrid and remote students. We’ve made our lists and we’re checking them twice. We’re making sure that we have a clear understanding of the health and safety protocols put in place to ensure student safety. We’re making sure that our teachers have everything they need to provide the best learning opportunities for our students. We’re double-checking that our learning spaces are well-ventilated, safely arranged and inviting.

Of course, some things will be different. We’ll be instituting a daily temperature check of all our students, faculty and staff prior to their boarding the bus or entering school. Parents are our partners in this endeavor. They will be asked to monitor their children’s health every day before sending them off to school.  

Our class sizes will be halved. The flow of students from classroom to classroom and around the building will be seriously curtailed. Lunch will be in the classrooms; physical education will be outside; our normal routines will be tweaked to adhere to health guidance — and still, we’ll build solid, positive memories of how schooling was in the year of COVID.

One area of priority in the past several weeks has been childcare for our staff and our families. We’ve been working hand in hand with Jeff O’Hara, our Part II partner, to provide the same level of pre-COVID after-school programming. 

Families that have depended on this service will continue to be accommodated. We have developed a plan for meeting the needs of our faculty and staff and have turned our energies to coordinating opportunities for our families. We await the results of a survey that went out to all licensed childcare providers, registered homes and community partners. We expect to provide a listing of available openings, including a description of the services, hours of operation, age level served and cost. 

Thanks go to Shelley Henson, CVSD early education coordinator, and Bonnie Birdsall, director of communication and digital learning for their work on this.

Separately, Jeff O’Hara is actively working with the Department of Children and Families on rolling out a “childcare pod” in our district — per Governor Phil Scott’s initiative. As soon as these plans are firmed up, we will let parents know how to access this option. Stay tuned. I know it’s late to be providing this information. We will share what we know as soon as we know it.  

We are very proud of our Virtual Learning Academy and its leader, Jeff Evans. Three hundred K-8 students and 60 high school students are enrolled.

The interconnectedness of our Virtual Learning Academy and our hybrid models necessitate a great deal of cooperation and collaboration among our school leaders. It is no small feat to put an entire “school” together from existing parts, and yet, that is exactly what has been done. These teachers are eager to serve in this new venture. 

The Virtual Learning Academy is at capacity. At this point, we will only be able to accept new virtual students where space is available at specific grade levels. 

Elaine Pinckney is superintendent of Champlain Valley School District