With a year and a half of instruction amid an ever-changing environment under their belt, the Addison Central School district is back to in-person classes for pre-K through twelfth grade. But according to Laurie Ballantine, administrative assistant at Cornwall Elementary School in Cornwall, Vt., policies remain strict throughout the district in order to best “stop the spread.” Students are required to wear masks at all times, except when eating or drinking, out at recess or sitting six feet apart outside of the classroom.
In addition to this mask policy, there are policies limiting visitors in Addison Central schools.
“In normal times, you’d have … parents coming in the building to drop off lunches or pick students up,” said Justin Campbell, principal at Middlebury Union High School (MUHS). However, with Covid-19 regulations in place, the building is closed to outside visitors aside from essential workers such as electricians.
The school also has contact tracing protocols in place so that, should an outbreak occur, they will hopefully be able to minimize its severity.
“Students sign in and out of classrooms, and we know where students are sitting in the lunchroom, for example,” Campbell said.
These policies remain similar to those of the previous year. This could largely be attributed to the fact that vaccines are not yet available to most elementary school students. Nevertheless, there are considerable changes that have taken place in the 2021-22 school year. In the previous school year, Addison County schools relied on cohorted instruction to limit the spread of Covid-19.
“The grades 7-12 were subdivided into two cohorts that met in-person two times a week and were remote three times a week,” Ballantine said.
The youngest pre-K students were similarly divided into cohort groups but met in person four times a week. Finally, grades K-6 were in person five times a week, but significant measures were put in place to minimize disease spread.
“[Students] were not allowed to remove masks unless they were eating. [Masks] were required to remain on even at recess,” Ballantine said.
Policies regarding school events are still subject to change, and the schools plan to hold events for the student body when they can, even though the format of these events might look quite different from previous years. At MUHS, Campbell noted that the school holds indoor dances in normal years. This year, during homecoming weekend, there was an outdoor bonfire instead of a dance.
There is also an air of uncertainty regarding athletic events as winter approaches. This fall season, MUHS athletic teams were required to play their games outdoors, although the fall sports, who already play outside, were unaffected.
As winter approaches, the schools will have to deal with the logistics of hosting indoor sports. Some considerations include whether the school should allow fans to attend games or institute mask policies at matches.
Campbell noted that, while school-wide events are happening this semester, most will have to be conducted outside. At Cornwall Elementary and other schools throughout the district, Ballantine noted that they plan to organize school-wide events this year but are following state guidelines for extracurricular activities.
While vaccinations are not available to a significant portion of the student body in the Addison Central School District, schools are working toward implementing strategies to increase vaccinations for those eligible and develop knowledge of who is vaccinated. MUHS has organized and continues to run vaccination clinics for both the student population and local community.
Campbell notes that the Vermont Agency of Education and Health Department has outlined a “self-attestation policy” in which the schools can gather input from students and their parents or guardians on their vaccination status.
”We’re getting a better sense of who among our student population is vaccinated,” Campbell said. At the superintendent level, there is an evaluation in progress of faculty and staff vaccination status. While there is currently no vaccination requirement for staff, Campbell suspects one might be implemented in the near future.
Ballantine hopes that there might be a return to normal in the future but said that, for the time being, measures must be taken to keep students safe.
“We are following the guidelines from the CDC and the Educational Department for the State of Vermont,” Ballantine said.
As for MUHS, there are ongoing meetings taking place to evaluate the impacts of the evolving pandemic. A district-wide group composed of administrators, nursing and support staff, teachers and union representatives come together monthly to look at data and state guidelines to respond effectively to changes.
”If conditions change one way or the other in some dramatic fashion, we’d have to respond,” Campbell said.
Emily Hogan ’24 is a layout editor.
She is undeclared but is considering majoring in Environmental Studies with a minor in math. She is very passionate about sustainability and enjoys learning how to be more environmentally conscious.
Hogan is from Denver, Colorado, and enjoys being outdoors skiing, hiking, and running. In addition to involvement in the Campus, she is a canoe guide for the Middlebury Mountain Club and enjoys running with MiddRuns. She also loves reading and listening to music.