In conjunction with the anticipated new state guidelines mentioned in this memo, I’ve been meeting with the HMS COVID Advisory Committee to develop a plan for our school as masking becomes optional in our state. While we have been told that the guidance would be out earlier this week and would go into effect on March 14, as of noon on Friday, it is not yet out, and therefore we will be waiting until March 21st to move forward on the plans outlined below. This plan takes into consideration the expected new guidelines and the levels of risk, concern, and desires of our Hilltop community. We will be taking a first cautious step towards unmasking. We have been told that the guidelines will specifically change to have masking be optional for any setting in Vermont, including schools, and the VTDH language will be updated to reflect this. As such, we will be adjusting our school requirements to allow for some students/teachers to be unmasked in some spaces, if they so choose, and also continue to require masking in some spaces. Specifically, starting on March 21st:
- Elementary and Middle School students and staff may unmask when in their own pod space. (These pods are over 80% vaccinated.)
- The pods will be considered: Middle School; Elementary (LE and UE together); CH (both classrooms together); and TP.
- Children’s House students and staff will remain masked, along with Toddler Program teachers. (Vaccinations are not available for the majority of people in these programs.)
- Everyone will be masked when in shared, indoor spaces (used by more than one program). This includes the main building hallways, the lobby, and copy room.
- Any student will be supported in their choice to continue to mask. We will also support students who want to be distanced while eating with their mask off.
- Families may inform us of their preference for a student to stay masked and we will support, but not enforce, that preference, and will inform families of their child’s routine behavior.
- If a positive case occurs in the Elementary or Middle School programs, the group will go back to masking indoors and have antigen tests each morning before school for the next five days.
- People crossing pods and visitors will be masked.
Our goal is to continue to keep our community safe, reflect the restrictions recommended for our community, and also start to return to our former sense of community. As always, we thank you for your patience and partnership through this long process, and your continued support and understanding as things once again shift for our school, state, and country in regards to Covid-19.
And, spring is coming! We will be outside more and more and windows and doors will be open for extra ventilation. We’ve been so grateful for our upgraded HVAC systems, the air purifiers that we’ve added, and spring will help further!
This plan will be in place for the remainder of March, at which point the COVID committee will reconvene, re-evaluate, and determine next steps based on this initial step towards unmasking. If there is a significant change in the COVID numbers in our area, this will be reevaluated sooner.
HMS Sick Policy
As we move cautiously to allow for some unmasking, it will continue to be critical that students showing illness symptoms (cough, running nose, sore throat, diarrhea, lethargy to the point of being unable to participate in class, etc.) stay home, or be sent home to recover. Students and staff with mild residual symptoms may return to school with a negative antigen test taken that morning and will be required to stay masked while indoors every day until symptoms resolve.
Head of School