Educating students can be a challenge in the best of times. Needless to say, providing our children with the academic, social and emotional support they need during a global pandemic is not an easy task.

All of us at Lamoille South Unified Union worked tirelessly over the summer months to prepare, and we are pleased to report that the first month of school has been a success. Children have adjusted well to the new health and safety protocols and remote instruction and are thrilled to be back with their peers and in the classroom – even if not for the full week. I want to extend my deepest thanks to all members of the Lamoille South Unified Union community for their hard work and support for one another during this challenging time.

The well-being of our faculty and staff, our children and the entire community is our number one priority and is at the core of the recommendations for safety, learning and daily operations. 

While we began the school year with hybrid instruction and only a couple of days in the classroom, we have been working diligently to maximize in-person learning for all students. It is widely agreed that there is just no substitute for in-person learning, particularly for our youngest students.

Our preparation has paid off and the systems we put in place have worked to keep our school community safe and healthy. Assuming we continue to meet our internal COVID-19 benchmarks, have low to no active cases in our school community and active cases stay steady or continue to decrease in Lamoille County, we will move to further our in-person instruction.

Within the next couple of weeks our elementary and middle school students will move to four days of in-person instruction per week. Our high school students will also see some changes with scheduling and the use of specialized classroom space but will remain in hybrid instruction for the remainder of the semester due to class sizes and our ability to physically distance.

The focus during these first few weeks of school has been on the physical and social emotional well-being of our students. While this is an on-going task, we will also now redouble our efforts to provide our students with rigorous and challenging academic instruction in this COVID-19 environment.

Students have been developing strong learning habits that they will be able to use throughout their lives. A few highlights this year so far have been students and staff at Peoples Academy designing a mural for their new green house; Peoples Academy Middle Level students learning the life cycles of caterpillars and butterflies; students at Stowe High School engaging in a rich discussion about the relationship between current events and fear-inducing symbols in the horror genre; and Stowe Elementary students performing controlled experiments growing lettuce in compost, worm castings and regular soil in the garden, to help learn the needs of living things.

While things are going incredibly well at the moment, the COVID-19 pandemic is not stagnant, and as the year progresses and health data fluctuates our school operations are likely to require revisions and changes. We are prepared for this. Flexibility remains at the foundation of our approach. We will have the ability to adapt to evolving environmental factors and the evolving needs of our students. 

As with many things, the greater the challenge, the greater the reward, and there is no greater reward than hearing the laughter of students as they reconnect in the classroom and seeing the pride in their faces as they excel at their academics. The need to provide students with social and emotional support has never been greater than it is today. The Lamoille South Unified Union community has risen to the challenge.

Our entire community has a role to play in the success of our school year. Each and every one of you has a role to play in helping to keep our community healthy and our school doors open.

Thank you for doing your part to help us with the greatest responsibility a society has — educating our children.

Tracy Wrend is superintendent of Lamoille South Unified Union.

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