Dear SAU Families,
I’m writing to remind you to please complete the most recent survey regarding the start of school and to address a few of the concerns we’ve received from families who feel they need more information to help their decision-making. At this point in the process, we are simply trying to increase the accuracy of our staffing and enrollment projections. Your survey responses should reflect your current thoughts and feelings – you will not be bound by your answers to the questions on this survey. In this environment, with more than four weeks before school is scheduled to begin, we know that much could change. We also know that as our plans come into sharper focus, you may be more or less comfortable with our in-person or remote offerings.
One concern some have expressed relates to the request that your decision applies to the entire first semester. As you can imagine, regardless of the fine details of our in-person and remote programming, operational concerns such as transportation, classroom arrangement, student grouping, and travel patterns will be complicated and will work best with as much consistency as we can provide. We may be able to ease off a bit on the request for a semester-long commitment, but would at a minimum need the stability of a quarterly time period.
Additionally, many of our families are asking for more detail about our remote programming before making the choice. Again, those plans are in process. We’re confident that our remote options will be more comprehensive than last spring, but we are still working on them. Our teachers needed a hard-earned break, and our teachers' association leaders, who are key members of our Task Force, requested that we not contact teachers during the month of July, and we honored that request. Further, New Hampshire school start guidance was only released in mid-July. Our school-based teams accomplished a great deal at the end of June, but are just now resuming that planning this week. Again, the purpose of this data collection is to gather information from our families to be able to estimate how many students are able and willing to return for in-person schooling. That data will give us a better sense for our distancing needs and other health protocols, which will, in turn, give our employees a clearer understanding of their likely working conditions. That, in turn, will allow us to create a staffing plan for remote instruction that balances our students’ needs with our remote teaching capacity. If those numbers don’t align, we have other possible options through existing on-line learning venues such as VLACS and the Vermont Virtual Learning Cooperative at no cost. As tough as it is to decide with incomplete information, we’re hoping for your current thoughts so that we can take another step forward. Unfortunately, we're stuck in a chicken/egg dilemma.
Finally, some of you have questioned our motive for the survey, even to the point of suggesting that we are trying to justify a pre-ordained course of action. I assure you that this is not the case. Our medical advisors are telling us that it's better for kids to be in school than in remote learning, especially when there are few if any active cases of the disease in the area. Nevertheless, we know that there are families who have medical and childcare issues or fear and anxiety that may make remote instruction a preferential option. The hypotheticals are limitless, and it is easy to imagine scenarios in which we're lurching one direction or another based on the disease prevalence. Nevertheless, we're working on three instructional designs so that we can switch readily when necessary, and working with public health officials and medical experts to craft guidance about the timing of such decisions. We have added infectious disease experts to our Task Force, our school-based teams are ramping up, and we’ll be engaging in more public conversation as early as next week. I encourage you to do the best you can with the survey and assure you that we will continue to work with the community to determine the best way forward in
a constantly shifting pandemic.
The survey can be accessed here.
Please note the survey needs to be completed by Thursday, July 30, 2020.