COVID-19 Updates

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Covid-19 Information

Resources and School Communications Regarding the Navigation of the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Current Status 

As of March 21, 2022. See blow for details.

Pods: Toddler Program and Children’s House / Elementary / Middle School

Masks Inside: Required in public spaces (the lobby, hallways, etc), and for pods with less than 80% vaccination rate (Toddler Program and Children’s House). Pods with over 80% vaccination rate (Elementary and Middle School) may choose to unmask while in their classrooms. 

Masks Outside: Optional

Parents on Campus: Yes 

Visitors on Campus:  Yes. All visitors must be either be vaccinated and boosted and/or take a rapid antigen test just prior to entering campus.

Visit the VTDH FAQ page here, and the VTDH page specifically for elementary schools here

March 21, 2022 COVID Policy Updates

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 Monday 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. 

Tamara Mount

Head of School

HMS Covid-19 Advisory Committee

Many of you have asked how Hilltop determines what policies we implement to keep our community safe and our school open for in-person learning during the pandemic. While Hilltop follows all the rules required by the state of Vermont, we often need to interpret them to some extent to apply them to our community. The Admin Team and the teachers have developed and adapted COVID guidance for the school for almost two years. To do so, Tamara Mount (our Head of School) has an additional team of advisors available to her. The HMS Covid-19 Advisory Committee consists of medical personnel, parents, and Board members. They review any significant policy and also are available to advise Tamara and the admin team as needed. The school also has on-call access to medical advisors under contract to Brattleboro Primary Care. We most often receive advice from their pediatricians Heather Lesage-Horton, MD, and Liz Richards, MD, who happen to be longstanding parents at HMS. Tamara can call on those two at any time. She also calls the Advisory Committee when time allows and/or a more significant policy needs to be discussed. These discussions have been through email, Google Docs, and Zoom calls. Sunday mornings are usually when the committee is available! Below is the COVID-19 advisory board members listed in alphabetical order:

  • Juliette Carr is an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse and Registered Herbalist, and is a parent of two children currently enrolled at HMS. 
  • Todd Fahey is the Vice President of Hospital Ambulatory Services at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, the Board Treasurer for HMS, and a current HMS parent.
  • Mark A. Horton, MD, is an anesthesiologist at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Keene and a current HMS parent.
  • Heather Lesage-Horton, MD, is a pediatrician at Brattleboro Primary Care Practice and a current HMS parent. She has been a medical advisor for HMS since before the pandemic.
  • Ellie Pennell is a credentialed Montessori educator, camp director, and Board Chair for HMS. She is also a current HMS parent.
  • Asher Pucciarello, LCMHC, is a mental health counselor at The Children and Parents Project, a member of the HMS Board, and a current HMS parent.
  • Elizabeth Richards, MD, is a pediatrician at Brattleboro Primary Care Practice and a current HMS parent. She has been a medical advisor for HMS since before the pandemic.

Parent Resources

Aid to Life – A straightforward advice based on Montessori principles that are easy to understand and apply

Talking to your child about COVID-19 – National Assocation of School Psychologists

How to Talk to Kids About Coronavirus – NY Times article

A Comic for Kids about COVID-19 – by NPR editor Malakra Gharib teaching early elementary children about coronavirus

Additional Online Learning Resources 

Staying Informed

HMS is following the recommendations of state and federal government agencies, including the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the Vermont Department of Health (VTDH), the Vermont Agency of Education (AOE), and the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to the best of our ability and with consideration for children’s ages and developmental stages.

By choosing to send your child to school, you are agreeing to possibly curtail other activities so as to keep our community safe. ​We ask families to stay informed and make safe personal choices, with the understanding that our whole school community must work together to stay safe and healthy. 

2020-21 HMS Re-Entry Plan

Hilltop Montessori School’s Re-Entry Plan was most recently updated in March, 2021. We have great appreciation for the staff, teachers, Board members, and parents who offered and helped to develop this plan. It is nimble and able to adjust to changing situations. 

Every decision and action we take in preparation for the reopening of Hilltop Montessori School, HMS, for the 2020-21 school year is guided by the following core principles:

  • We will proactively guard the health, well-being, and safety of the children, adolescents, and adults in our immediate community, the surrounding community, the state, and the world.
  • We will remain true to our Montessori values and our mission, for students to practice responsible independence in a caring community of curious, critical learners and thoughtful citizens. 
  • We will continue to cultivate a culture of belonging, with a deep commitment to each community member feeling embraced, valued, respected, and celebrated.

    The year ahead will require a strong partnership between families and the school. Please read through the attached document carefully and thoughtfully to begin that shared commitment, and set both ourselves and our children up for a safe and successful year ahead.

    2020-21 Shared Responsibility for Returning to School Agreement

    It is the responsibility of our entire HMS community to protect the health and safety of our students, staff, families, and greater community. The following are three important areas that our parents must support to promote the health and well-being of the entire school community:

    1. Please do not send your children to school if they are showing signs of illness. This is more important than ever before, and supports the State requirements. The VTDH requires that children do not come to school when feeling unwell or displaying any symptoms. Do not give a child fever-reducing medicine to reduce a fever and then send them to school. Parents must report if their child is experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms to the Front Desk on the day the symptoms first appear. P​lease read the current list of COVID-19 symptoms ​here.​
    2. If a child is sick, they will be required to go home and will need to be picked up promptly (as soon as reasonably possible). ​A child showing symptoms will need to be isolated until picked up by a caregiver. Thus, we ask that parents ensure that a caregiver is readily available to come get a child if necessary on any given day. This means if a parent or guardian is out of town or unavailable for any reason, a secondary caregiver should be notified ahead of time and made aware of their responsibility to be available to pick up an ill child as promptly as possible, as well as notifying the Front Desk. We will be keeping a list of contacts for each child at the Front Desk. The student will be isolated, outside if weather permits, or inside in a well-ventilated room away from other students and with a staff person in appropriate PPE.
    3. By choosing to send your child to school, you are agreeing to possibly curtail other activities so as to keep our community safe. ​You are required to comply with the changing Vermont State t​ ravel restrictions and guidelines​ in place. At this point, that means d​ o not go to a county with more than 400 cases/million people in the last two weeks of August.​ Please also do not excessively socialize with an extended group of people in a way that significantly increases your risk of exposure and/or makes contact tracing more challenging and extensive. We really want to be able to meet in person, and doing so successfully requires a commitment from everyone in the community to follow safety guidelines and exercise good judgement.
    4. We have developed a for our community — parents and staff — to sign so that we all understand, and commit to, our responsibility in protecting our children, each other, and the community as a whole. We will require that parents and staff sign this agreement prior to the start of school.

    We trust that our parents will comply and be forthcoming with information provided as part of the screening process, and will not bring children to school who have been given fever reducing medication. We also are requiring that families follow the guidelines for travel out of State​ in order to send their children to school.

    2020-21 Learning From Home Handbook

    Hilltop Montessori School has put together a handbook in an effort to translate both the sense of community that Hilltop provides, along with the academic and “whole child” offerings that are regularly given by our school. We are continuing to apply lessons learned from the spring experience to further improve the experience from home, should we be called upon to do that again.

    HMS: Learning from Home Handbook