Education News

Ten MUHS students get COVID

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury Union High School has been contending with a spike in COVID-19 cases — a total of 10, all involving students — since Oct. 14, according to the Addison Central School District’s coronavirus reporting dashboard. See the online dashboard at tinyurl.com/enpr9pyb.

Five of the MUHS cases were reported on Oct. 15, according to the district’s dashboard.

On Monday, school administrators said the COVID spike had not required any changes to school schedules, nor any suspension of classes.

“Most of these cases (likely all but one) are connected, and it is most likely the spread was outside of school in social situations,” said Kelly Landwehr, RN, the MUHS lead nurse and coordinator of the district’s COVID-19 response plan.

MUHS students this fall are on a fulltime, in-person schedule, still with a mandatory mask requirement when indoors — except at lunch. There’s no longer a stringent social-distancing requirement, and students are allowed to go mask-free when outdoors. Several tents have been erected on MUHS grounds for students needing a break from mask wearing, to eat food on a nice day, and for educators to conduct classes in a mask-free environment.

The ACSD follows this protocol when a positive COVID-19 case is detected within the school community:

•  Any staff or students considered close contacts receive direct notification from a school nurse or principal.

•  The Vermont Department of Health completes contact tracing for events and gatherings that happened outside of school and may have led to the contagion. Contact tracers then call the close contacts and give them guidance to stay home and away from others for a certain amount of time.

•  Principals communicate directly to the school community affected.

•  Persons who test positive must stay away from campus until they are COVID-free.

As of Wednesday, 18 people — students and/or staff — at ACSD schools had tested positive for COVID-19 in October, according to the dashboard. ACSD consists of Middlebury Union middle and high schools, along with elementary schools in Bridport, Cornwall, Ripton, Middlebury, Salisbury, Shoreham and Weybridge. In addition to the 10 cases reported at MUHS, cases have been flagged this month at MUMS (four), and one each at the Ripton, Mary Hogan, Weybridge and Shoreham elementary schools.

Landwehr said the district is also offering COVID supports to the uninfected.

“We have a robust team of mental health providers here at MUHS including guidance counselors and licensed mental health professionals who are available to students throughout the day,” she said.

MUHS Principal Justin Campbell does not foresee the outbreak prompting a move to remote schooling like there was last year.

“I strongly support MUHS remaining open and in-person,” he told the Independent. “There are real and substantial costs to students when schools close and/or go remote. In my opinion, schools will be dealing with the fallout from the COVID closures for years to come.”

Campbell added that the remote school option last year came about because Gov. Scott’s emergency order waived the usual Agency of Education rules and processes.

“We will absolutely support our students who are out of school due to illnesses and/or quarantine,” Campbell said. “There is, however, no fully remote option like last year.”

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