Education News

Three ACSD schools see COVID surge

MIDDLEBURY — Addison Central School District officials are urging vigilance and voluntary compliance with COVID-19 safety protocols — rather than mandatory masking and other restrictions — in the wake of recent, major coronavirus case spikes at three of the district’s schools.

Kelly Landwehr, RN, the district’s lead nurse and COVID-19 program coordinator, reported 24 confirmed cases at Middlebury Union Middle School on Monday (by Thursday the number had risen to 43, according to the ACSD reporting dashboard). This follows confirmed outbreaks of the virus at both Cornwall and Shoreham elementary schools during recent weeks. A COVID-19 spike is classified as an “outbreak” if at least 10% of the school community is confirmed with the virus at the same time, officials said.

Shoreham Elementary School Principal Mike Lenox on May 2 informed his community of 12 new COVID cases since April 28, affecting all grades. The school has recorded a couple of additional cases since May 2.

“We recognize that any increase in COVID cases can cause concern,” Lenox wrote. “This increase in cases was reported to the Vermont DOH (Department of Health) and we received guidance from our local school nurse liaison and members of the state epidemiology team from the DOH. They were not surprised to hear that cases were spreading quickly as the majority of current COVID cases are the Omicron BA-1 and BA-2 variants and are highly transmissible.”

Cornwall’s Bingham Memorial School logged more than 10 positive COVID cases during the month of April.

The DOH epidemiology team’s advice, according to Landwehr, included that local families encourage their students to mask-up, that affected schools temporarily suspend group activities on campus, that kids stay home when they’re sick, and that copious numbers of COVID test kits be passed out to local households.

“It really did help,” Landwehr told members of the ACSD board on Monday evening. “(The DOH advice) cut (the spike) short and brought the numbers down quite quickly. It was impressive how quickly it went away in Shoreham.”

Landwehr noted the district didn’t issue any mandatory restrictions to curb the COVID spike.

“It’s gone from… trying to keep it away, to accepting that it’s a part of our life and really is into the hands of individuals on how they want to deal with it,” she said. “You can continue to mask, you can continue to do certain things; it’s really a personal choice, based on your own medical history or your home situation, or whatever it may be.”

Landwehr reflected on how COVID response has gradually changed at the global, state and local levels.

“It’s a weird time,” Landwehr said. “We kind of went through two years of really being traumatized by this illness, and being so vigilant, putting in so many factors to keep (the virus) away from us and out of our schools. And then we made this transition to ‘masks optional,’ and dropping a lot of our mitigation factors.

“I think none of us ever thought the pandemic was truly over,” she added. “We all recognized it was here, but there’s more of a shift in how we deal with it, how we look at it, and how we confront and navigate it right now.”

Only time — and the changing nature of the virus — will tell what COVID-19 has in store for the balance of this school year and start of the next.

“As you all know, almost two-and-a-half years into this, this process seems like it just keeps on changing and morphing,” ACSD Superintendent Peter Burrows said.

School officials are now looking forward to a little respite from the coronavirus.

“I think summer can’t come quick enough, so we can get out of the buildings and get outside,” Landwehr said. “It will be interesting to see what the summer brings.”

Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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