MILTON — This Wednesday, students and staff will return to classrooms in the Milton Town School District after a year of separation and altered education.
Though the 2021-22 school year will look decidedly more normal with five days of in-person learning for all students, many COVID-19 mitigation measures are still in place.
Superintendent Amy Rex told the MTSD board at an Aug. 12 meeting that these protocols and procedures will continue to evolve.
“We know COVID has a mind of its own, and things can change,” she said.
Masks a must in all MTSD schools
All students and staff will be required to wear facial coverings while in school buildings. Rex said this decision was made because children under age 12 cannot be vaccinated and because the Delta variant is expected to peak around mid-September.
Masks will not need to be worn outside, like during recess and athletics.
The federal government requires masks on all forms of public transportation, including school buses and district vans. Students will also need to be masked when riding or driving in the driver’s education car.
The Vermont Agency of Education recommends removing mask requirements once 80% of a school’s eligible population is vaccinated. Rex told the school board she would like to follow this recommendation if and where possible.
At this time, only children 12 and up are eligible to be vaccinated. This means masking will likely stay in place at Milton Elementary School until the health conditions change and/or a vaccine becomes available for young children, according to the MTSD Vermont Forward Health and Safety Handbook.
“I know it's really disappointing to people,” Rex said. “It’s hot, and everyone was really excited about coming back without masks on, but I think it’s a good way to start.
Social distancing not required
As of now, there is no social distancing recommendation from either the CDC or the Vermont Department of Health, and therefore, MTSD will not make it a requirement.
“We know that if we want to have our students in school for the full day, for the full week, we cannot distance,” Rex said. “This is another reason why masking is important.”
Assistant Principal Fieh Chan told the board that Milton Elementary School will utilize other COVID-19 mitigation measures in the classroom in place of social distancing.
“I am not aware of any distancing measures right now, but we do still want to consider a lot of mitigation strategies that are working, like contact tracing,” he said.
MTSD will also continue to prioritize hand washing and sanitizing, according to the handbook. Custodial staff will perform routine cleaning of classrooms and common spaces each day.
In addition, mechanical exhaust fans were upgraded to ensure adequate fresh air flow. Windows will also be kept open or cracked, weather permitting.
Here’s what else you should know about this school year:
MTSD will continue to require students and staff to stay home when they are sick. Individuals with a fever higher than 104 degrees and/or who are showing symptoms of COVID-19 will be sent home, Rex said.
Volunteers and visitors will not be permitted in the school buildings during school hours until the district reaches its 80% vaccinated threshold. After that time, visitors will still have to wear a mask and sign in so contact tracing can be conducted if necessary.
Visitors entering school buildings in the evenings for school-sponsored events, like open houses, must be masked. Outside groups and organizations using the facilities should follow the Vermont Forward plan.
MTSD is still waiting on guidance from the AOE on whether certain performing arts programs, like chorus and band, will become less restrictive.
The COVID-19 Steering Committee which was formed last year, is still meeting regularly. The committee currently consists of: Rex, Executive Assistant Jennifer Saunders, Communications Specialist Erik Johnson, COVID Coordinator and Nurse Dorey Demers, Director of Facilities Bruce Cheeseman and a principal from each school.