The team at St. Johnsbury Academy continues to develop thoughtful, responsible, and balanced plans as we maneuver through the 2020-2021 school year in accord with the Vermont state and CDC guidelines, other official and expert advice, and the good thinking that is happening across the world. It is our goal to offer our students the best possible SJA experience while keeping them safe and protecting our communities.
Our work has focused on ways to maintain and even build on the Academy’s unique daily life, culture, and mission in this unprecedented and unpredictable time. Thank you for partnering with us and helping to keep our community safe.
Please feel free to send questions to me using this form.
Dr. Sharon Howell
St. Johnsbury Academy Community Commitment
Life at the Academy looks different as we work together to make our campus as safe as possible for in-person teaching and learning during this global pandemic. Our mission remains to help each student become the best person, the best learner, and the best community member they can be — and our collective dedication to that mission, and its promises to our students, is more important than ever.
Each of us needs compassion and respect right now, and how we model responsibility and integrity will resonate into the future. Our current predicaments are the best evidence of how critical it is for our teachers to keep doing their good work — helping students pursue knowledge, approach problems creatively, and understand their education as a rising path both to self-reliance and to equity of all kinds. Perhaps the deepest lessons of this moment lie in recognizing the power of our relationships and the inescapable connectedness of our lives.
Confronting the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic while also staying true to our values will require trust and partnership among us all — faculty and staff, students, parents, and the larger community. That is why we are asking everyone in our school community to commit to doing what is necessary to keep one another as safe and healthy as we can. Change and uncertainty can be hard, but if our desire is to be and stay together this year, there are very specific things that we can do to minimize risk and help protect each other.
We are all in this together
We are asking everyone to help us comply with those public health measures that have been shown to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and to help communities stay safe. Some may already be part of your routines, and others will be important to learn.
- Wearing masks: There is wide consensus that masks reduce transmission, and in keeping with the current Vermont State mask mandate (as of August 1), we are requiring that every member of the community wear a mask or other facial covering when on campus. Mask wearing is non-negotiable for in-person participation in any activity on campus, and we will have masks available for those who need them.
- Physically distancing: We have made changes to campus density, layout, and navigation that will help us to be mindful of our distance from others. We know it can be hard to keep the recommended 6 feet or more of distance between us, but we need to do our best. Posted signs, repositioned furniture, distance markers, and other directions will support your effort to distance in our campus spaces, as will moving some activities outdoors.
- Cleaning and Disinfecting: we will be cleaning and disinfecting communal surfaces often, filtering indoor air, and providing hand sanitizing stations in convenient locations around school. We also encourage everyone to acquire the habit of washing hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.
- Limiting travel and exposure: We will be adhering strictly to the state’s guidelines about quarantines and testing, so as we begin the year and throughout the fall we will expect everyone to avoid unnecessary travel to places requiring quarantine upon return. We will also be limiting visitors to campus to those with specific needs to be here, and strictly limiting off-campus trips.
- Staying Home When Sick: The best way to avoid exposing others to the virus is to stay home if you have symptoms. Our academic classes will be offered both in person and online in a hybrid mode, and no student will be penalized for staying home to attend class virtually. We will screen all who come to campus, and anyone with symptoms or known exposure will be asked to return home before entering campus.
- Working together: We are likely to have a case of COVID-19 in the school community at some point. In that event, we will follow protocols developed with the help of infectious disease experts — including dedicated isolation space, testing, and contact tracing — and work closely with the Vermont Department of Health and our local health partners to determine a response in accord with the state’s guidelines. Health officials will need all of our help with contact tracing, and with understanding that we have significant constraints about what can be shared publicly about an individual’s health. And you can help school officials by understanding that different situations may call for different responses, and a positive case in the community will not automatically be considered cause for emergency action. At the same time, we will not hesitate to move school online — something we are prepared to do smoothly — if we determine that is the appropriate response.
Some have shared concern about the ability of kids, even teenagers, to wear masks and keep distance from one another consistently — and we know that students’ compliance with these precautions will determine their success. St. Johnsbury Academy is guided by a deep optimism about young people; we believe that students learn from and follow examples they respect, and can often surprise us by rising to high expectations. The more adults make the right behaviors part of our “common daily business,” and model healthy practices, the more we hope students will work with us to do the same—and even take the lead in helping their peers.
Safety remains an overarching priority in this time of pandemic. But teaching, learning, and connecting in this inimitable community is our reason for being. We cherish, and yearn to return to, what we love about SJA — the traditions, habits of life, and simple joys. Our serious and shared commitment to a successful school year, and our understanding that we share the responsibility for that success despite the risks of the moment, are what will make us successful.
Updates to Academy Families
from Headmaster Dr. Sharon Howell
Update to Academy Families — May 14, 2021
Dear St. Johnsbury Academy Families,
As the end of the school year approaches, the prospect of opening the campus to programs this summer, and then opening as a full community in Fall 2021, is looking brighter than ever. I do want to be sure our community is clear about how these next three weeks will go given the movement in CDC guidance and other reopening moves across the country; and I’d like to update you on some of the things that are making us optimistic.
Vaccinations: children ages 12-15 are now eligible for the COVID vaccine, and we along with many schools are hosting a clinic on Wednesday, May 19th from 11am-6pm. This will be an open clinic that anyone from Vermont can sign up for, and if they are able to get the vaccine that day your child will be pre-scheduled to return to the Academy on 6/9/21 for their second dose. A card with the date and time will be provided after they receive their first dose. Please be in touch with Sarah Garey with any questions about the clinic.
Masks: The Center for Disease Control and Prevention made a surprise announcement on Thursday with new guidance about mask-wearing, specifically that masks would no longer be mandated for vaccinated individuals. We want to make sure folks know that this guidance does not apply to schools. We are hoping to make good progress in the coming weeks with vaccinating our students and all community members, but we are still requiring masks through the end of the year.
Summer Programs: I want to urge folks to go to the Summer Programs website for the most up to date information on what we’re offering which includes orientation and transition programs, enrichment, academics, and sports. Sign up for academic courses here: https://stjacademy.org/academic-opportunities-excellence/sja-summer-academic-session. Questions about summer programs to David Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fall 2021 Rebuilding Planning: The AoE has promised some guidelines about reopening by the end of this month, but the big question I think people have is about being fully in person: We plan to start next year fully operational, open for all students, on campus, and as close to normal as possible. We are working to prepare ourselves for what we know we be a period of rebuilding and restoring everything from classes to culture to policies, but there is excitement in that, and I am convinced we will be a stronger institution because of it.
International Students: The State Department has announced an exception to travel restrictions for international students, so we are thrilled that it looks like we will be able to bring all of our wonderful boarding students back to campus in the fall. For more information please contact the Admissions Office.
Senior Prom and Graduation: We are delighted that we are going to be able to hold a Prom, with dancing, music, a parade, and fireworks, for our Seniors on Brantview Lawn on Saturday June 5th. Our outdoor Graduation plan also allows students to invite up to 4 guests to attend the ceremony on June 7th.
We just met as a full faculty and staff, and I was struck by just how wonderful it will be when we can start bringing the JOY to our daily rounds here at school. “The governor says we can dance” is not something I ever thought I’d say—but that is emblematic of the surreality of life during COVID. It captures the way our world was disrupted down to the way we move and inhabit spaces; how accustomed we’ve become to talking about these minutiae as part of our serious school business; and how we’ve realized how important those seeming minutiae are to our well-being. Dancing is a perfect example of one of these little things—it’s joyful, free movement that often involves socializing and even touching each other.
The joy with which the announcement about high school proms was greeted indicates how impoverished all of our experiences have been, and especially our school experience that depends so much on relationships, connections.
Brighter days are ahead—and the SJA campus is full of flowering trees and impossibly green grass. Thank you for helping your students stay focused as we head to the final weeks of school.
Take good care,
Dr. Sharon L. Howell
Update to Academy Families — May 7, 2021
Dear St. Johnsbury Academy Families,
I am happy to be writing to you on this sunny Friday, especially since it’s been an extra week since my last update. Things haven’t stopped happening as we head into the final three weeks of the term and the year, and we’ve been busy adjusting and confirming plans. I want to share some of this information and hopefully answer some of the questions that have been coming up. Forgive the lengthy email—there’s a lot!
Thursday, May 27th: Last day of Classes
Friday, May 28th: Wrapping up, make-ups, non-senior resident students depart
Sunday, May 30th: Deadline for student work (exceptions through Department Chairs only)
Tuesday, June 1st through Sunday, June 6th “Senior Week” activities and events
Monday, June 7th: Commencement—Outdoors, rain or shine, with the field house as a hostile-weather option.
A full official schedule of events with details will go out to senior families from our office by next Tuesday, May 11th, but in the meantime, the top-line items are below.
Senior Week June 1st-June 6th
The week’s activities will really start on Thursday with Last Chapel and Senior Sports Recognition, so the action is a little more compressed. Full official schedule of events will come out from the Headmaster’s Office next week, but here is the gist:
Thursday, June 3rd: Last Chapel/Senior Breakfast and Senior Sports Recognition
Saturday, June 5th (Friday, June 4th rain date): PROM on Brantview Lawn, with parade through town at 7:00pm, fireworks concluding at 10pm.
Sunday, June 6th: Class Day
Monday, June 7th: Commencement
We are following the Governor’s “Vermont Forward” phased plan for reopening, where by June 1st, if 60%-70% of Vermonters are vaccinated, we will be able to hold an outdoor, in person graduation with seniors, faculty, and families—four guests for each senior. The plan is to hold it on the football field, rain or shine, and in the Field House if there is some kind of hostile weather event.
Our plan is to open the campus to Summer courses, camps, and activities aimed at restoring learning and enrichment; and then by Fall 2021 to have the Academy back to full operation, with all students on campus and programs running. Until then we will be working to create the conditions academically and culturally for true long-term rebuilding and reimagination. Our current slate of Summer Programs includes:
The Academic Summer Session is still building its offerings, but these are the confirmed courses:
We are also hoping to include additional art offerings, and there are a couple of different project-based and experiential learning programs specifically for middle schoolers in development for 5- week-long sessions throughout the summer. We will update as soon as we have more detail on any updates to these programs. Please visit the webpage for our summer academic programming for more information.
We strongly encourage all eligible members of the community to get vaccinated when you are able. If you’re unsure if you’re eligible or how to access the vaccine, please go to the Vermont State Vaccine Information page, and if you are confused about where you should get the vaccine, contact Sarah Garey at the Health Center, email@example.com.
This past week students did some lovely things to celebrate their teachers, including thank-you notes, Chapel talks, and goodies in the faculty room. Now we are all getting excited to celebrate our students together in the near future. At the Senior Class Council meeting this morning, even though it was 7:15am, the students were already raring to go on preparations for an on-campus prom.
We thank you so much for all the work you do every day to get your kids motivated and on track in these strenuous times—with just a few more weeks, we hope that if any students are struggling in ways we can help to address, you will reach out to us so we can partner in support of them. I also always appreciate hearing from you all, and hope that you will continue to be in touch with me when and if you have questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy your weekend!
Dr. Sharon L. Howell
Update to Academy Families — April 16, 2021
Dear St. Johnsbury Academy Families,
I am happy to be writing to you as we head into our Spring Break, starting tomorrow, Saturday, April 17—and I want to thank you for all you’re doing to support your kids, to be in touch with us about issues that come up, and generally to do what we need to do to partner through this difficult year.
You should know, too, that we are so grateful for your students and the extraordinary resilience they have shown throughout this slow-motion crisis. Back in the fall I remember a conversation with the COVID Response Team about how in the world we were going to get everyone to wear a mask and follow the arrows we were putting down—thinking that we would have to intervene regularly to make sure those things were happening. Today, that worry feels almost absurd given the number of new guidelines and restrictions we have had to put in place, and how mature students have been about almost everything. I am just so proud of these students.
You should have received a few things from our staff in the last couple of days.
Interim grades went out to you from the Academic Office, and are also on the Parent Portal. Please be in touch with either individual teachers or Academic Dean Hank Eaton with any questions about grades or narratives. And just as an aside: know that if your student is having a tough semester, they are not alone. But they can finish stronger—and we will help.
The calendar of events went out for the different senior ceremonies, and celebrations that we hope will take place during the “senior week” of June 1st through June 4th. I need to note that all of our plans are subject to change if conditions change. We are excited about the number of events we will be able to hold in person with our seniors, given the continued restrictions we are bound to—we are following the Governor’s Vermont Forward guidelines for now. If you have questions please email Betsy Legendre at email@example.com.
We know that there is lots of disappointment about the fate of the Senior Prom—we’re disappointed, too. But we are simply not able to hold a prom this year in the way it’s been in the past—in person, everyone at the Mount Washington Hotel—but we are trying to work to create a Senior Celebration that will include each of our students in a fair way, and have some of the fun and fanciness of the real thing. Thank you to all the seniors who have been working with us on this, and the senior families who have kindly offered their help.
Vermont 16- to 18-year-olds will be able to sign up here for the Pfizer COVID vaccine as of 10 a.m. Saturday, April 17. This is a change from the April 19th date that was previously announced. Also, thank you for honoring the state’s travel guidelines over the break.
I am told that the snow that is currently coming down on the tulips in front of Colby Hall is actually pretty normal. I will have to process that—I’ll do it over break. Please rest and restore, and we will see you with new energy and more tulips when you return on April 26th.
All best, and take care,
Dr. Sharon L. Howell
Update to Academy Families — April 9, 2021
Dear St. Johnsbury Academy Families,
Taking their first round of “SBAC” (Smarter Balanced Assessment) tests may not have been the most exhilarating reason to be here on a Friday, but seeing members of the freshman class arriving in person at the field house this springish morning felt very hopeful. Brighter days are approaching!
Today I want to share a few important updates about newly revised health and safety guidance from the Vermont Agency of Education, and about the progress of our recovery and renewal efforts, including some of the things we are planning to finish this incredibly challenging school year strong for students, families, and faculty and staff.
Strong and Healthy Finish: It is very exciting that Vermont is putting into place the plans that will hopefully allow us to get back to a more normal summer. The Agency of Education and the VT Department of Health released new guidelines for schools yesterday afternoon. While there is not much change for us—we are still wearing masks, distancing, operating in the hybrid mode, and discouraging non-essential travel—there are some slight changes you will want to read about. Please see the COVID response team update below.
Recovery and Renewal: As we look to move past the COVID pandemic, from crisis response to rehabilitation, there is once again a great deal of planning to be done. As from the beginning, there remains uncertainty about both the nature and the timing of changes to the pandemic conditions and the public health guidelines that will steer us; but we want to be as ready as possible to do what’s best for students in the coming months. As we strive to meet these challenges, our guiding priorities will be:
To bring our students back to campus in a safe, responsible, and sustainable way;
To mitigate the effects of the pandemic on the well-being of our students and the school community, with attention to school culture, renewal of learning, and social-emotional health;
To learn from lessons of the pandemic to restore and build our understanding of essential learning, and to repair disruptions in student engagement and academic success.
Please see the Appendix below for more details on our efforts.
End of Year: In the spirit of short-term recovery and renewal, and with better understanding of the possibilities for gathering in June, we have decided to adjust the final days of the school year. We hope both to allow for more celebration of our seniors and to offer some respite to all.
The last day of Spring semester classes will be Thursday, May 27th, with an exam make-up day on Friday, May 28th.
Students will need to submit any work for spring courses by a deadline of May 30th.
The week after Memorial Day—Tuesday June 1st-Sunday June 6th—will be a “senior week” during which we will do our best to offer some of the traditional end-of-year events such as Last Chapel, Class Day, Senior Breakfast, and Baccalaureate, ending in Commencement on June 7th as planned.
We are planning a couple of different scenarios for Commencement Ceremonies including what we can do outdoors, indoors, and including as many faculty and families as possible.
Please feel free to be in touch with us about any of these updates—there is a lot here to absorb, but things are changing in good ways. We will hold a Senior Parent Zoom forum on Tuesday, April 13th at 7:00pm to talk about the end of the year plans for our seniors. An invitation will follow; please join us there. The COVID Response Team email is COVIDResponseTeam@stjacademy.org; and my email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you more now than ever for your support and partnership,
Dr. Sharon Howell
COVID RESPONSE TEAM UPDATE:
Physical distancing: The guidance for mask wearing and six-foot distancing is still in place and important with the rise in adolescent cases in Vermont. We have been successful in staying open this year in large part because of how we have adhered to these standards and worked with the Department of Health, and we don’t want to lose that now.
Vermont also has new travel guidance as part of its reopening plan effective today. (They are still discouraging non-essential travel until you are fully vaccinated.) The new guidance asks unvaccinated Vermonters to test within three days of returning to Vermont. You do not need to quarantine while you wait for your results if you do not have any symptoms.
Because our boarding students live together in a dorm and have many close contacts, we will continue to require a seven-day quarantine followed by a negative test result for our boarding students returning from out-of-state travel.
The guidelines for quarantining for COVID symptoms, testing because of symptoms, close contact quarantine and isolation of positive cases remains the same.
We will continue to rely on our Academy families to do daily health checks prior to school, keep sick kids home, and have their student tested within the three days after traveling outside of Vermont.
We will also continue daily health screening. The revised guidelines do not require it, but they do ask us to “monitor” students for symptoms, and this is a great way to do that—both to greet all students as they arrive, and to make sure they’re not coming to school sick.
The updated guidelines will allow some freedom in mixing student cohorts and classes for educational purposes, which will give us more options for student-teacher meetings for extra help.
APPENDIX: RENEWAL AND RECOVERY PLANNING
Our Renewal Planning Team, made up of staff from across the Academy, will consult with relevant faculty and administrators, rely on data from the state government and public health experts, track the guidance of educational leaders and our professional organizations, and help the school put in place both a short-term renewal plan and a process for continuing to adjust our long-term plans in informed and appropriate ways as we move into the summer and the coming years.
Our hope is to have the Academy back to full operation, with all students on campus and programs running, for Fall 2021—and until then to create the conditions academically and culturally for true long-term renewal. We will:
Enhance the supports available for incoming students;
Adjust some of our freshman offerings to respond to the needs of the moment;
Offer some creative summer programming for students and teachers;
Work closely with returning students to finish the current year strong and in a way that will start building the foundation for return to school in the fall.
We know that things will not be the same, and anticipate needing to keep in place some of the health and safety measures, online and hybrid teaching options, and operational structures that we have developed over the last year; to continue to offer a version of our “Virtual Academy;” and to continue to communicate in the more robust way we have over the course of this year given the ever-changing landscape. As before, we will acknowledge that while we will not always get everything right or see around every corner, we will share our thought processes and the information that informs our decisions as transparently as possible.
Renewal Planning Team:
Sharon Howell, Carol Lyon, Beth Choiniere, Hank Eaton, Sarah Garey, Jack Cummings, Tammi Cady, Mat Forest, Sean Murphy, Kurt Zschau, and Jack Driscoll
Over the next two months, this team will convene and regularly report to the Academic Committee in order to:
Determine key questions (esp. around school opening);
Assess needs of students, faculty, parents;
Gather data from relevant experts;
Model scenarios and options for recovery and renewal;
Align plans and solutions with the rollout of state and federal funding;
Pursue appropriate funding.
The Renewal Team will work in relation to the State of Vermont’s proposed “recovery” timeline—roughly late March to begin planning, and fully implementing by June 1st. But we know there may be steps we want to take along the way, so our goal is not to produce a static “plan” by June, but instead to plan continuously and iterate across the coming weeks.
Our directives from the Board of Trustees will steer all our work, particularly as we look to maintain financial sustainability and fidelity to the mission, while continuing to improve the school strategically in response to changing conditions and advances in thinking.
Update to Academy Families — April 2, 2021
Dear St. Johnsbury Academy Families,
I hope that the Zoom forum on Tuesday night was informative and reassuring to those who joined us—your questions were so helpful to us, and your expressions of support were much appreciated. This past week was fairly calm on the COVID front with our dorms returning to normal and students out and about again. You will have seen an alert today about an additional case—a community member who has not been on campus since March 11th and has no close contacts with the school. Cases in the county are certainly up, but we are still working hard to keep our campus a safe place to be every day.
A couple of quick notes as we go into the weekend:
New guidance: Today the Agency of Education and Department of Health confirmed that they are working on new guidelines for school safety and recovery to address the needs of the current moment, and that those guidelines will recommend reducing the required physical distance measure to 3 feet from 6 feet. This is news we have been awaiting eagerly, as the evidence regarding distancing has emerged, so we were glad to hear it. For now, though, until we are able to process the new guidelines with our team, we will continue to adhere to the 6-foot distance guidelines and will remain in the Green/White cohorts at least through April break. Stay tuned for more news on this.
April Break Travel: We continue to ask earnestly that you not travel non-essentially, even if you are vaccinated, until there is a better understanding of how vaccinated people can or can’t spread COVID-19. If you are fully vaccinated and two weeks have passed, the Vermont Department of Health does not require you to quarantine when you return from traveling, but we are requiring it because of the potential risk to our community.
Student Support: We continue to urge you to help us connect with those students who need support with their academic progress or who have been struggling in any way. We see better outcomes when students are connected and engaging with us, and being here in person if you’re in a cohort helps that immensely.
Have a good weekend, stay safe, and we will be in touch. As always, I want to hear from you with your questions and concerns, so please never hesitate to reach out.
Dr. Sharon Howell
Update to Academy Families — March 19, 2021
Dear St. Johnsbury Academy Families,
Today is the anniversary of the first Vermont deaths from COVID-19, and many families will remember that it was this time last year schools closed in response to the pandemic. Tonight at 7pm I will ring the bell in the Colby Hall tower to honor those who have died of COVID in this past year. I want also to honor all of those who have tried so hard to help students and each other to be strong and resilient. It is not over yet, but it will be: we just have to hang on. Some quick updates:
Please sign up for virtual “Meet the Teachers” on the 25th and 26th (next Thursday and Friday). These are such important opportunities for us to partner with you toward your student’s success, so please make time for a conference if you can. Remember there will be no classes on Friday, March 26th.
If you have a returning Academy boarding student, please be sure to re-enroll! Boarding families have received new enrollment contracts from the Admissions office, and we’re here to answer any questions families may have.
Many of our teachers and staff have been vaccinated—but it will be a while before students are (16 and over will be eligible on April 19th in Vermont). We’re all frustrated by the limitations on travel for the April Break, and I am truly sorry to have to impose them. But COVID numbers in Vermont are high, and there’s still much to learn about how the vaccines work. In the meantime, please find joy where you can, stay put, and wait a little longer for the clouds to part.
Speaking of which, tomorrow is the first day of Spring, which means warmer weather and more time outside. The governor signaled in his press conference today that he hopes we might have somewhat normal or “more traditional” Senior Celebrations at the end of the year—more on that as we learn more, but that is music to our ears!
The CDC just introduced new guidelines allowing children in elementary school to keep 3-foot distance while in school, and while Vermont has not yet weighed in on what this might mean for high schools, we are keen to understand what our options are for getting those students who are ready back to school full-time. We are aware that some families are keeping students online for various good reasons, and we respect that, especially given that more COVID has been in the community (again, school is not where COVID is spread). We do hope, though, that those students who are slated to be in school on cohort days attend—and we ask for your help with making sure they do.
Thank you as always for your support and for reaching out with your concerns and questions. We can hear in your notes—parents and students alike—how painful many aspects of this moment continue to be. I can only say that with new guidelines, the energy of spring, and the vaccine, we hope sincerely that we will soon be able to celebrate the end of this year together.
Dr. Sharon Howell
Update to Academy Families — March 12, 2021
Dear St. Johnsbury Academy Families,
This week’s balmy weather has put a spring in many of our steps—and brought us new hope and new energy. Our winter athletes are winding down their shortened seasons, with so much success—particularly in snow sports—and so much heart. And just in time as we watch the snow melt!
I have some updates about our COVID response in view of some of this week’s developments, some thoughts about continuing to remain vigilant and careful, and some information about upcoming opportunities to connect with us.
1. COVID Response Updates: News from the federal level yesterday about the President’s plan to have all adults vaccine-eligible by May 1st, and a new commitment to speedy vaccine deployment, is great—but we echo the President’s admonition to persevere in our fight against the virus. I know we can finish it together just as we started it together, and we are so close.
Recent Cases: We are still monitoring the COVID cases we communicated about on Wednesday and Thursday, but we wanted to be sure to mention that all of these cases were contracted and spread outside the classroom and are not related to one another through school. They are from individual gatherings outside the school day, or travel outside of the state. We are all working very hard to keep masked and distanced, and still doing a very good job. We have not identified any class participants as contacts for these cases.
Caledonia County: As we have said from the beginning, there is a direct connection between the number of incidences of COVID in the community and in our schools—but schools are not where students get COVID. With county numbers up, we need to be extra vigilant about prevention off-campus.
Teacher Vaccination Plan: the state of Vermont has prioritized teacher eligibility for COVID vaccines, and our faculty and staff have begun to be vaccinated. The Academy is hosting a clinic this coming Sunday for area teachers, and may host another in the coming weeks. This is obviously wonderful news for us, but again, it does not mean that we can let up on our safety measures. We await more guidance from public health officials about what being vaccinated will actually mean for our operations.
No Non-Essential April Break Travel: In the meantime, the newest CDC guidance is clear, and our Department of Health agrees: we still need to avoid non-essential travel if we’re going to stop the pandemic. For us, this means that we are again requiring that students, faculty, and staff not travel over the April Break. For our boarding students, we will do all we can to keep them active and bring some fun over the break—the nice weather will help with that. Let’s keep doing what we’ve done to be successful!
2. Academic Updates
Vermont Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) Testing:
We will be administering these tests to freshmen and juniors over three Fridays in April before the break:
i. Friday, April 2nd: Junior Science
ii. Friday, April 9th: Freshman English Language Arts
iii. Friday, April 16th: Freshman Mathematics
More information will soon be forthcoming from the Academic Office, but these will be days that students from both cohorts taking the tests need to be here on campus in person—all others will be remote as usual on Fridays.
Meet the Teachers, March 25th and 26th:
We will again be offering virtual conferences for families with our faculty on the afternoon of Thursday, March 25th and the morning of Friday, March 26th. An email with links to sign up for these conferences will come to you soon.
Remember that the next two Fridays—March 19th and 26th (teachers conferences)—are In-Service Days with no classes.
Families of seniors will soon receive a letter with some basic information about graduation—right now we are not certain what the spring celebrations will look like, but know that we’ll make every effort to make it special, whatever our limitations might be.
I want to remind folks again that coming to campus in person on their cohort days is critical to students’ success—those students who are struggling the most right now are those who are not here with us on their scheduled days. While we have been very flexible about families’ choices to remain online, we also need to hold students accountable and help them engage thoroughly with their classes. Please help us do this, and please be in touch if you have questions about your student’s standing or attendance.
Enjoy the sunshine, and thank you again for your help, partnership, and willingness to stand together to get through this time.
Take good care,
Dr. Sharon Howell
Update to Academy Families — March 5, 2021
Dear St. Johnsbury Academy Families,
It is good to be in touch with you again after a couple of weeks’ break. I have heard questions from you all, and have been thinking a lot with my team, about when and how we might return all of our students to campus safely. The announcement by the Governor and the Agency of Education that Vermont is prioritizing testing for all teachers and school staff by March has brought us a step toward that goal, and the recent CDC guidance that suggested full reopening was helpful, but there is a lot more planning to be done to make sure we are proceeding responsibly.
Our students’ and our teachers’ mental health, their physical and emotional health, and learning imperatives all point to getting students back here with their teachers, mentors, and peers. We know those who are struggling the most, and it is a significant number, are those who are “all online” and not coming to campus at all. Those personal interactions with our community that happen in real time—even it’s just to laugh together at how incredibly cold it is—make an immense difference in all of our ability to cope, but are especially important for young people.
Just one update on COVID Response, and a couple of requests from our campus life team:
You may have read that we asked the members of our hockey team to quarantine last Saturday because they had recently played Lyndon Institute and some of those players tested positive for COVID. Our players have all been in quarantine until this afternoon; all of them received two rounds of negative results.
You will see an alert from the Response Team about three positive cases that we found out about only today. We have followed our normal protocols for contact tracing, quarantine, and testing with these cases; they are all related to a gathering outside school over the break, and we have no identified close contacts here on campus.
As I mentioned, the State of Vermont is offering vaccines to teachers and school staff starting Monday, March 8th. The logistics are still incomplete, but teachers can start signing up now, and this is wonderful news for us.
When students are healthy and thriving, you can see it, often, in their hygiene and self-care. We are seeing more and more students who need to attend to their hair, their dress, and their overall respect for the community’s requests such as taking off hats and hoods when inside. There is an orderliness in aligning around our dress code that can offer a lot in a chaotic world—please be sure your students are following the dress code when they come to campus, and are neat, clean, and appropriate when on Zoom.
And please make sure they come to campus! More and more, students are “choosing” to stay online even when they are scheduled to come in on their cohort day. We need your help to emphasize the importance of being here not only because it is better for learning, but because we have carefully put them into cohort groups and it shows respect for the whole endeavor.
If you have trouble with either of these directives, please contact the Campus Life Office and we will discuss it with you—we want students to keep going strong this year and to get ready to be on campus full time before too long.
One final note—I know many of you are wondering about spring events and graduation, and I want to ask you to please stay tuned. We have a team working on some scenarios—hoping for the best, planning for the worst—and you will hear from them soon.
As always, my door is open and I am eager to hear from you for any reason. Thank you for continuing to help us work with your wonderful students.
Dr. Sharon Howell
Update to Academy Families — February 12, 2021
Dear St. Johnsbury Academy Families,
We are feeling a great deal of gratitude for our students and their resiliency these days, and we are conscious of how much they (and we!) need the upcoming break. Student mental health as a public health crisis of its own is emerging as a critical topic in recent weeks, with new studies showing more clearly than ever the need for social and emotional support that school provides over and above any content or class.
I’ve been visiting senior advisories a couple of mornings a week, and I am so encouraged and moved by how faculty and students are working on making the most they can of these strange days by connecting with each other—this morning I also met a number of adorable pets on Zoom including a giant bunny and a small Irish setter. Our senses of humor are more important than ever right now, so I have a few updates on some of the things coming up that I hope will help us all make the most of things more easily.
Starting, though, with COVID reminders: A number of folks have asked us how we’re addressing the uptick in local cases and the new variants of COVID-19 that are emerging as vaccines start to roll out in earnest. The short answer is—we’re doing what we do. The measures that we’ve been taking throughout the pandemic remain the best there are to limit spread and protect our community’s health. I am attaching some good reminders from our COVID Response Team about mask wearing, distancing, avoiding gatherings, etc. at the bottom of this update.
Winter…Festive Week!—Next week students and faculty are preparing a number of fun things in lieu of our traditional Winter Carnival. Special Chapels, games, treats, trivia, a break from homework, and finally a Head’s Holiday on Friday, 2/19 won’t make up for snow sculptures and floor hockey—but I hope folks enjoy the reprieve. Thanks to Campus Life and Student Government for their work on this.
Athletics Update—The Governor has allowed competitive sports to begin as of today, and we’ll start with Basketball this evening, and Hockey, Gymnastics and Nordic skiing this weekend. Our Athletic Director, John Lenzini, has sent a note with the schedule and instructions for joining select games via livestream—unfortunately, spectators are not allowed as of now. But we hope that all our athletes enjoy playing regardless! Live streaming information—and information about how to purchase a cut-out spectator for your student athlete—is also attached at the end of this email.
Music is Coming—Just today we’ve heard from the Agency of Education that we can start some indoor music programming next week—with restrictions, but it’s something! Can’t wait to hear the flutes and trumpets again. To follow are plans for performing arts as well.
Thank you all for your partnership, as always, in helping our students to be as healthy as possible, even when it is difficult. Please remember that you can reach out to us if you need help in navigating situations with your students—we have a strong mental health team of counselors and nurses and are eager to do whatever we can to help. Enjoy the early launch into Winter Break next week (Friday is a Head’s Holiday), and take good care.
Dr. Sharon Howell
REMINDERS FROM COVID RESPONSE TEAM:
Stay home if you are sick
Wash your hands
Keep your social circle small
Stay at least 6 feet apart
Wear a mask—During cold weather, change your mask when it becomes wet. Keep a spare mask to replace the wet one, and put the wet one in a plastic bag until you get home. If you need to wear a scarf, ski mask or balaclava, wear it over your mask. If you wear glasses, find a mask that fits closely over your nose or has a nose wire to help reduce fogging.
To slow the spread of COVID-19 in Vermont, you may not gather with anyone you don’t live with. In addition,
if you travel outside of Vermont, you must follow quarantine requirements.
if you had COVID-19, received a positive antibody test, or got a COVID-19 vaccine, you still must quarantine when you travel or return to Vermont under the current travel guidelines. This also means that you are not allowed to gather with people you don’t live with under the current social gathering guidelines.
Close contact means being within 6 feet, for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period, of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 during their infectious period. The infectious period starts two days before any symptoms began—or for people with COVID-19 who don’t have symptoms, two days before they got tested— and continues until they are recovered. You are not considered a close contact of someone else who is a close contact but has not yet tested positive themselves.
ATHLETICS LIVE-STREAMING and CUT-OUT SPECTATORS
From Athletic Director John Lenzini:
Home games will be available for viewing on a new streaming service, and you can access the games here: YouTube: SJA Hilltoppers.
We know it is challenging to not be in the gym for your son’s or daughter’s basketball games this season. We also recognize that your child will miss seeing your face in the crowd. We are offering the opportunity to have your “Face in the Crowd”. This effort allows you to purchase fan signs through the SJA Athletic Department and have them placed in the stands for your favorite basketball player.
This is a great opportunity to bolster our athletes’ spirits. Put Your Face in the Crowd!
Support SJA Basketball by having an 18” x 24” photo of you in the bleachers.
1. Hilltopper Fan Signs are $20 each. Place your order online: Hilltopper Fan Signs.
2. Photos should be high resolution and can be vertical or horizontal.
3. Photos are subject to approval.
4. Hilltopper Fan Signs are yours to keep at the end of the basketball season.
5. Call the Academy Field House desk to make a cash or credit card payment (748-8683) if you cannot order online.
Let us know if you have questions. Thank you for your support.
Update to Academy Families — January 29, 2021
Dear St. Johnsbury Academy Families,
Greetings on a frigid Friday; I hope all are settling into the semester well. Our outdoor activities are a little tougher in this weather, but I still see folks running by my office and have new appreciation for their fortitude!
An opinion piece by David Brooks in today’s New York Times sums up the feelings of most responsible educators during this pandemic: students need to be back in school, together, with teachers and mentors, being cared for in all the ways we have promised to care for them. I am ever more grateful to our faculty and staff for their commitment to SJA students. With their determination, creativity, and tremendous collaborative capacity, they have created an environment where we can be in person safely. You should know that all of our work right now is focused on providing those things that successfully engage the intellects and interests of students, and we are particularly sensitive to the trends that show students struggling just to feel part of something real.
A few updates:
Afternoon Study Halls—will begin again this coming Monday, 2/1, in the library from 3:15-5:00 p.m.
Attendance—We continue to find too many students not coming to school in person on cohort days, or not joining their classes on Zoom. We’re grateful for your help with ensuring your student is in class and checking in when and where they are supposed to.
February and April Breaks—Resident students will remain on campus unless their homes are in Vermont for both the February and the April Breaks this year. Specific plans for breaks will follow, and please contact Jamie Ryan in Residential Life at email@example.com, or the CRT at COVIDResponseTeam@stjacademy.org with questions.
The Hair Code—Just as our dress code has not changed, neither has the part of the code pertaining to hair. These are hard times to get a haircut, but if there is hair covering your student’s eyes, we ask that you do so—given our masks, we’d love to see at least the upper part of your student’s face whenever possible. Along those lines—the pandemic has not hindered shaving, and our dress code still requires that you do this, boys, with enough frequency and diligence that robust facial hair does not appear. That is: No Beards, guys.
I’ve started popping in on senior advisories in the last two weeks, and I want to thank Matt Stark, Johnna Kendall, and Pat Kinsella’s advisory groups for spending a few minutes with me and sharing your interests and much good news about colleges, scholarships, local job opportunities, and other important decisions.
We are hopeful that the state of Vermont will continue to help us take proper precautions against COVID-19, offer prompt and helpful testing—and eventually provide vaccinations. There is mounting evidence that students are not getting the virus in school, and Vermont continues to be one of the safest places in the nation. There is still uncertainty about athletics competitions, but our teams are practicing and scrimmaging and clearly having a lot of much-needed fun.
As always, please reach out with questions and concerns, and we will try our best to answer and address them.
Take care and stay warm,
Dr. Sharon Howell
Update to Academy Families — January 22, 2021
Dear St. Johnsbury Academy Families,
This past week at the Academy was inspiring. From an address by Dr. Reverend Bob Potter about his friendship with Dr. Martin Luther King; to a Chapel Talk by Academy Senior Ceirra Manassa-Curnin; to the roll-out of a 54-mile “Virtual March” replicating the March from Selma to Montgomery in 1965; to an Inauguration Day presentation about the history of inaugurations from Interim Academic Dean Hank Eaton—not to mention recitations by four students participating in “Poetry Out Loud” this year—our mornings provoked thought and conversation. I am so grateful to all who made this week honoring MLK so memorable.
Just a couple of quick updates as we head into the weekend.
Attendance Required for In-Person and Online Cohorts
Last week I mentioned that nothing has changed with our in-person dress code, and because we’ve had a number of similar confusions about attendance, I want to make sure to be clear. We still require all students to be in attendance on their cohort days unless otherwise excused. Cohorts have been carefully established, also: so please attend according to cohort and how you have been instructed by your Dean and the Academic and Guidance Offices. If you need to make a change for some reason, or have any questions about your students’ arrangement, you need to be in touch with us. School is in session!
Clubs and Activities
We’ve started a number of stimulating new after-school activities in addition to Athletics. Please encourage your student to get involved in theatre, art, math club, Model UN, chess, robotics, or any of the other great opportunities now available, and please be in touch with Campus Life or visit the website for more information.
Thank you as always for helping us to create the best possible educational experiences for your students, in a safe, healthy, considerate environment—even in this time of pandemic and ubiquitous uncertainty. I want to remind everyone that my door is always open for conversations about anything that might be getting in the way of students feeling that they belong or are being treated respectfully. Our strong and honest relationships are what make all of our work possible, so please always feel free to reach out to me or to any of our faculty and staff with suggestions, thoughts, concerns, or questions.
With best wishes for a snowy and happy weekend,
Dr. Sharon Howell
Update to Academy Families — January 15, 2021
Dear St. Johnsbury Academy Families,
This first week of what we call “spring” semester (folks have assured me this will eventually make sense) has gone quickly—thanks to all who choreographed the dance of cohorts, sections, spaces and times to unfold properly every day. The addition of 28 new students for the spring semester made this a challenge, but the Academic, Guidance, and Campus Life Offices worked long hours over the break to make it all happen—and while some of you pointed out rightly that we were down to the wire getting students their schedules on Monday, it took every minute we had to get things right.
It’s been a delight to see students back on campus, and hear them in the halls and classrooms again—and we are thrilled to welcome all of our new students. We thank our many students who quarantined in the Maple Center and the Comfort Inn, and the dedicated staff who helped them stay sane and fed. And we still have 74 wonderful students across the world who join their teachers in the Virtual Academy every day—many thanks to Kendra Brazeau for her care and support of those students and their families. We are so grateful you’re all with us.
The bizarre backdrop of presidential impeachment, tension and fear of unrest around the upcoming inauguration, on top of the relentless progress of the pandemic have made for countless educational moments already, particularly in government and social studies classes. We will continue to seize opportunities to learn, while remaining aware of our current strife, as we celebrate Martin Luther King Day all next week with talks, reflection, and service to honor the legacy of Dr. King. Learn more about our plans, which include a talk on Monday the 18th by Dr. Reverend Robert A. Potter.
Our regulation size outdoor hockey rink is about ready to go—many thanks to John Lenzini, Ben Davis, and the whole crew in Athletics, Kurt Zschau and crew in Facilities for getting it poured and frozen, and to the engineering folks in the shops (Bret Bourgeois, Jim Baker, and their students) for designing and building the “bambini”—a small version of a Zamboni that we will use to resurface the ice. This is all still pretty experimental, but we know the hockey players, boarding students, and all of us are psyched to try it out.
One last note: we are eager for students to continue to observe good etiquette now that we’re back on Zooms, so please remind your students that they should behave in online class as they would in the classroom. Have a good weekend, and as always, don’t hesitate to be in touch with any questions or concerns as we get back into the swing of things.
Dr. Sharon Howell
Update to Academy Families — January 8, 2021
Dear St. Johnsbury Academy Families,
Warm greetings as we prepare to return to school in this new year. I hope that you were able to find space for joy in the last few weeks. It has been wonderful seeing boarding students arriving in the last few days, and having athletes back for masked and distanced practices; and we are very excited to welcome all students back to classes on Tuesday the 12th.
I have some brief updates to share with you:
Our weekly hybrid cohort schedule will remain the same this semester:
- Green Cohort in-person Monday/Wednesday, online Tuesday/Thursday
- White Cohort in-person Tuesday/Thursday, online Monday/Wednesday
- Boarding students in-person Monday through Thursday
- All students online Friday (note: we will NOT be in-person on Fridays)
Students will still begin the school day at 8:00 a.m., but we’ve adjusted the day to end at 3:10 p.m. Detailed weekly and daily schedules—as well as the full semester schedule—will be available on the SJA parent plus portal and are also attached to this letter.
Please also note that updated individual student schedules will be available on the afternoon of Monday the 11th. Because we are still constrained by density requirements, we’re holding off on any schedule changes right now.
Please remember to do health checks in the morning before students head to school—and students should stay at home if they don’t feel well.
COVID case counts are up in Vermont, but we remain one of the safest places in the country—and schools remain some of the safest places in the community— because of all the precautions we take. But please know that we will be monitoring community spread and assessing our safety here on campus continually, while also continuing to follow all of our prevention and health practices (masks, distancing, hand-washing, good ventilation—including newly renovated HVAC systems in many academic buildings).
Clubs and Activities:
In addition to athletics, we will offer more after-school clubs and activities this semester so students can have more contact with friends and mentors who share their interests. Campus Life will roll out details about these opportunities during the week of the 18th, and we will post on the website once schedules have been confirmed.
Partnering for Student Success:
We remain grateful for your help as your students have faced the challenges of learning in this time of pandemic. Some students have genuinely thrived in online, hybrid learning environments; but as they have all over the world, many have also struggled to stay focused.
We have a better sense of this challenge after the fall semester, and our academic support team, department leaders, and faculty have been working to understand how best to help students stay connected and engaged despite distance and distortion. One way we know works is to make even more personal connections with students and families—so we will be giving special attention to that early in the semester. We’re eager to have strong partnerships in place when and if obstacles arise—or better, to be able to see those obstacles coming with our combined vision.
I would be remiss not to acknowledge the surreal moment we are living through in America as I write to you. On Wednesday, the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. was stormed by a violent mob as the Congress attempted to ratify the results of the 2020 presidential election. Those results have now been certified, and fortunately our message to students can be that our democratic institutions are indeed resilient. Hopefully, the turmoil will subside as transitions occur this month—but these events have shocked us all, and given our work with students new urgency.
For nearly a year now, our children’s experiences have been punctuated regularly by unsettling crises such as these, and have unfolded against a relentless rhythm of anxiety and mourning. So we are constantly amazed by the ways our students find to shine brightly nevertheless. They are doing beautiful art, being admitted to their dream colleges, earning accolades and scholarships, learning to build real buildings and bake real wedding cakes, making new friends who support them and make them laugh, and building strong, meaningful ties with teachers and mentors.
I expect that we will need to find new sources of resilience and strength in the coming weeks, and I feel sure that I speak for all of us here at the Academy when I say that one place we find that strength is in the privilege of being part of your students’ lives. Thank you for that privilege, and for a new year of partnership and hope.
Dr. Sharon Howell
Update to Academy Families — December 11, 2020
Dear St. Johnsbury Academy Families,
It is hard to believe that we are almost at the end of the fall semester and have only one more week of class before the Winter Break. Students have started taking their final assessments and completing final projects for their classes; advisories are preparing for a talent show, Secret Santa gift-giving, and ugly Holiday mask and sweater days; and teachers are reportedly engaged in lip-synching activity, the result of which we are eager to behold.
Many of you have chosen in the past few weeks to keep your students at home—and a good number of boarding students have already been Zooming in from home in order to spend more time over the holidays with their families. The Winter Break starting next Friday, 12/18, will be more than welcome.
A few quick updates for this final week, and looking toward next semester.
COVID Response Thanks: Our COVID response team’s extraordinary vigilance and hard work has meant we could make, time and again, the decision to continue together in-person despite isolated cases in the school community. Earlier this week, the Department of Health again praised this team for their quick and accurate work, and the school for our safety measures that continue to work so well. Everyone here has reason to be proud.
Spring 2021 semester starts in-person: We recognize the emotional toll that this pandemic is taking on all of us over and above the physical one. We have been very safe, here in Vermont, compared to the rest of the United States; but the cost of that safety—which has often involved tough choices about seeing loved ones during the holidays—has in itself been hard to bear. Mitigating that cost is one important reason that our plan as of now is to continue in-person instruction when we return for the spring semester on January 12th.
Fridays In-Person during Spring 2021: Being physically in school has unquestionably been important for so many of our students. We are currently weighing the possibility of bringing students to campus more in person in the Spring—cohorts would come Monday and Wednesday, or Tuesday and Thursday, then Friday every other week, instead of having Fridays only online. We will communicate about these plans as soon as they are decided.
Online Surveys: On Monday, 12/14, our Academic Office will be sending a survey to families about your cohort plans for next semester, and hoping to get enough information to structure classes to be most effective both in-person and online. Yesterday, students filled out surveys designed to gather data on their experiences this term, and we hope what we learn from asking these questions will help us be even better next year.
Athletics: Winter sports are still on pause for now, but we may have more news next week, at which point we will be in touch.
Of course, we will be in close touch when the time approaches for our return to campus after the New Year, and we will let you know in a timely way about new plans, and if there are any changes to the plan to return in person. But in the meantime, we thank you wholeheartedly for your steadfast partnership in making this semester a success for so many students; and we wish all of you a safe, healthy, and happy holiday season. We are all hoping fervently for a much, much improved 2021. Please never hesitate to be in touch, and as always, take care, and be well.
Dr. Sharon Howell
Update to Academy Families — November 20, 2020
Dear St. Johnsbury Academy Families,
This has been an intense few weeks, as COVID has come to our world, so I know it is the main topic on most people’s minds. I’m eager to address comprehensively some of the many questions and concerns that have come up over the past few days, as we prepare for the (welcome!) Thanksgiving break next week.
First, that the Academy has been able to stay open in-person is a tribute to months of hard work of our entire dedicated faculty and staff, and in particular recently our COVID Response Team. Their work collaborating with the Vermont Department of Health on contact tracing, determining timelines, and connecting with people has been extraordinary; and most of what I am able to report to you is a result of it.
Keeping You Informed
While our goal is always to share helpful information with you when we do learn of a case, and provide as many details as we are able* while respecting confidentiality, we understand that it can still feel confusing and alarming not to know all the details when you are sending your child to campus. Some have found it helpful to hear in more detail the contact tracing process, so we are providing a guide to that as an appendix to this update. I hope it will also be reassuring to you to know that we have actually had no cases of in-school transmission here at SJA. In all cases, the transmission of the virus was a result of individuals attending parties, gatherings, and social events like the ones that are now not allowed in the state of Vermont.
What We’re Considering
A number of you have reached out to ask if we are considering going virtual-only, and even to urge us to do so, given the four cases we’ve now seen in the last few weeks. I want to be clear that, as we have said from the start, we will not hesitate to go virtual if we determine that there is a COVID-related reason to do so, and we will make that decision in conjunction with the Agency of Education and the Vermont Department of Health. It is always in our minds as an option. A reminder that our main considerations for going virtual are:
If there is a Vermont State mandated lockdown.
If the Department of Health or Agency of Education moves schools to Step One status.
If the Department of Health advises or requires it.
If faculty or staff absenteeism means that we are not able to operate to our safety standard on campus.
This past Tuesday, many of our faculty and staff were able to be tested for COVID thanks to the state’s initiative to provide tests to essential workers. Over the next few days, these test results will be coming back, and it is possible that some of our faculty and staff will have to quarantine as a result.
So far we have been able to provide substitutes for teaching faculty who have responsibly stayed home either because they didn’t feel well or have been tested themselves. We hope to continue to do that as tests come back negative. If we do end up with a shortage of staff, it is possible we will need to move to online instruction temporarily. Remember that our faculty and staff have been preparing to do this since the summer, and we should be able to make that transition smoothly. We are aware that virtual learning will present unique difficulties for those with unreliable internet access, and we are working on solutions for those families
Staying Open for our Students
But we are trying hard to keep campus open for those students—most of them—for whom in-person learning is critical. That includes those who work in the shops or the studios, or who need every day learning support, or who depend on our meal program. But it really includes most of our students, as much recent data shows. Just yesterday, a joint press release from the American Academy of Pediatrics Vermont Chapter, Vermont Academy of Family Physicians, and the Vermont Medical Society stressed the importance of being in school.
Keeping schools open is crucial because kids need consistent in-person learning. Children and adolescents exist on a different timeline than adults. Growth and development is measured in weeks and months. Development is rapid and exciting, but that also means that when opportunity is missed or delayed, that lost time can be unforgiving for children. We continue to see that schools are not a main driver in this pandemic. (Press Release: Protecting Communities and Schools, November 19, 2020)
Finally, we know that for some even knowing all of the data and science does not change how you feel. So if you are more comfortable doing so, you can of course keep your student home (please let us know if that’s what you decide) without any penalty or problem on our end. But know that if school is open, it means we feel comfortable with the level of risk here on campus and confident in being here taking our customary precautions.
What You Can Do
We are counting on families to help us as we enter this season—and one of the most important things you can do is to limit your holiday and other travel or gathering according to new Vermont requirements (no travel beyond Vermont, and no gatherings of more than one household). These limitations feel pretty terrible at this holiday time, but we must take them more seriously than ever. My own family has parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins in Massachusetts, and we would love to visit with them. But of course we won’t: we want even more urgently to protect our SJA community from COVID-19.
So please consider the following guidelines:
Do not travel outside the state of Vermont except for essential reasons.
Do not gather beyond one household.
Avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people.
If you have family members returning from college, please follow Vermont’s quarantine rules upon their return. (And enjoy having them home!)
If you do travel or gather despite these requirements, be honest with us about it, let Sarah Garey know (firstname.lastname@example.org), and do not have your student return to campus on November 30th—they can join their classes online until they have quarantined and have a negative test.
Nothing about this is fun or easy, so we thank you for helping us do what’s needed, even though it’s tough. We will look forward to days of Thanksgiving in the future—particularly since it appears likely that we will have a vaccine in the not-too-distant future. Making these sacrifices now might feel a little easier knowing that there is an end in sight. But that doesn’t mean that we ease up on our health and safety measures—the more we stop transmission now, the faster that end to the pandemic will arrive.
I hope that this information has helped ease some of your minds in these difficult days. We would also like to offer you an opportunity to hear more from me and members of the leadership team about our current thinking on this and next semester and to answer your questions. We will hold a Family Zoom Forum in webinar format on Monday, November 23rd, at 7:00 p.m. If you already have questions you’d like to submit ahead of time, please share them with our Zoom coordinator David Baker at email@example.com. As always, too, feel free to email the Covid Response Team at CovidResponseTeam@stjacademy.org.
Please sign up for the webinar at the following link: https://stjacademy.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_sITkE7CxQva4kVMjgtxRlw
With only four and a half weeks to go in the semester, we are eager to focus on finishing the semester strong, and our students have been working hard and continuing to accomplish great things in the classroom, on the fields, and in the kitchens, shops, and studios. All of us have been finding more room for fun this month despite the cold; students are running for student government; and seniors in particular are reaching out to help us find ways to make their year special by being creative and keeping as many Academy traditions as we can.
Interim grades came out yesterday, along with a note from our Academic Dean, Hank Eaton. Please take this chance to check in on the progress of your student. It’s time for all to buckle down and be diligent—they can still change an outcome that might not look promising. Please help us to reinforce the messages about staying connected with teachers, communicating with us, and helping us offer them the right support. We couldn’t be more eager to work with your students and help them succeed.
Thank you, SJA families, for your continued support. Beyond safety, ahead of academic success, know that our chief concern is the emotional health and well-being of all members of our community. So please keep partnering with us in these final weeks of the semester as we look to keep students engaged with their classes, to keep campus safe, and to finish this unprecedented semester as strongly as we can.
I hope you will join us on Zoom next Monday, and I hope you’ll have a (safe, local, small) very happy Thanksgiving with people you love.
Take care, be well, and keep in touch,
Dr. Sharon Howell
*In our last alert, we did leave out a detail that some have since suggested would have been reassuring to know. That is the latest positive case, on 11/17, had not been on campus since 11/10.
Appendix – SJA Contact Tracing Process
Over the past two weeks we have worked closely with the Department of Health around our few positive cases. In these cases, the DOH has asked us to help formulate a list of close contacts; People you have been with in social situations less than 6 feet apart, for more than 15 minutes two days prior to the onset of symptoms. We have been able to provide seating charts and attendance list when necessary. Because of our due diligence with classroom capacity, seating arrangements, students and faculty staying home when they do not feel well, and the wearing of masks, our possibility of close contacts in the classroom are very low. This is a good reminder that in Vermont case transmission has not be in schools, but out of school at social gatherings.
Here are the steps we follow as we learn of any individual case:
We learn of a positive case of COVID-19 in our school community
We contact the Vermont Department of Health. The DoH now has regional coordinators and can be very responsive—e.g., most recently we have been able complete this process within one day
We collaborate with DoH to develop a “line list” of people who could be close contacts, and a timeline of where and when the positive case was on campus or with other members of our school community
Members of our COVID Response Team work with faculty, staff, and/or families to confirm whereabouts and contacts for positive individual
Sarah Garey (Health Center Director) and the DoH communicate with potential close contacts, notify them if quarantine/staying off campus is required, and help them understand next steps
Depending on what the CRT and the DoH determine, we take the following actions:
If there is no in-school transmission, and we have enough faculty and staff to do so, we stay open in person
If there is no in-school transmission, but we have too many employees out, we consider moving to online instructiontemporarily
If there is in-school transmission, we move to online instruction temporarily as we gather information
If the DoH determines there is an outbreak at the Academy, they activate their outbreak response coordination, and we move to online instruction immediately
We communicate as swiftly and transparently as possible with our community
Update to Academy Families — November 13, 2020
Dear St. Johnsbury Academy Families,
This week went quickly and fairly uneventfully at the Academy—of course our region is a bit on edge right now about a rise in COVID cases, so I will briefly play a broken record and urge all to be extra careful about our precautions. We will keep you abreast of any relevant updates here at school, as I detailed in last week’s letter. A couple of brief updates:
Testing—The state of Vermont is providing schools with enough COVID tests for all of our faculty and staff to be tested. We will receive those next week, and will offer them to all employees at that time. Any results from those tests would likely arrive the following week. I mention this because folks should be prepared to hear about some cases at that time—and my hope is that if that should happen we will all continue to show the respect, support, and good sense that has so far won the day. Should we need to act, we will let you know in a timely way—but it’s safe to assume that we are simply getting good information that will help us keep campus healthy.
Interim grades—Next week we’ll be putting interim grades up on the Parent Portal, and we would like to ask that you go there to check those, along with any narratives that teachers may provide if your student is struggling. We will send an email with the portal link once the grades are up, but you will need to visit the portal in order to see the grade report.
Thanksgiving—Break begins Wednesday, 11/25, and we return Monday 11/30. It goes without saying, but I will say it anyway: please stay close to home over the break, strictly limit guests, and follow all the quarantine rules.
The news this week that there may be a coronavirus vaccine in the offing might help us to feel more resolute about making these choices to stay apart—knowing that this is not going to last forever. I know it does that for me. In the meantime, let’s remember how fortunate we are to be together, and feel a measure of pride in the fact that we’re able to stay that way for now.
Please always feel free to be in touch with questions to the COVID Response Team email: CovidResponseTeam@stjacademy.org. or to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. And remember to look at the St. Johnsbury Academy website for stories about our students and their accomplishments, news, up to date information, and school calendars.
Dr. Sharon Howell
Update to Academy Families — November 6, 2020
Dear St. Johnsbury Academy Families,
It has been a busy week with our first two school community cases of COVID-19, and you’ve heard from me a few times already. I know that the recent cases have made folks nervous—the fact is, you can talk about something scary for months (which, to be fair, we have); but when it happens, it is still scary. So we are doing our best to help the whole community keep things in perspective and to reinforce those messages we’ve been sharing for a while, now that it feels more real.
A few reminders today, since I know people have had questions and thoughts about our roller-coaster week.
First, please know that all of our work around COVID-19—including deciding when to be on campus or online—is informed by and follows the guidelines from the Vermont Department of Health around contact tracing, quarantines, campus health and safety, and travel. The COVID Response Team and I want to remind folks of some of these resources and urge you, if you have questions, to go to the links below to find the best and most up-to-date information about public safety measures.
Vermonters traveling out of state: https://www.healthvermont.gov/covid-19/travel-quarantine/vermonters-traveling-out-state
Tips before you get together: https://www.healthvermont.gov/covid-19/protect-yourself-others/tips-you-get-together
Close contacts and contact tracing: https://www.healthvermont.gov/covid-19/symptoms-sickness/close-contacts-contact-tracing
We have a sensible process to consider the safety of coming to campus, and to make hard decisions about that in moments when there is not much clarity, but a lot of emotion and concern. You can be sure that if we do not feel like we have enough information about whether or not it is safe to be on campus, we will pause, go online for a day (or more if needed), do a deep clean, and work on gathering the information we need to determine if all of us can and should be here together. We will try to be as clear as we can about how we’ve made these decisions, but know that they will always be based on scientifically sound public health best practices. Even as our goal is to remain in-person, we will not be on campus unless we feel confident that we are ready.
As you know, travel has become a particular concern, and as we have said before: please do not leave the state of Vermont unless it is essential: doctors’ visits, work, school, non-custodial parent visits, food shopping (though of course we do have stores in Vermont). Going out to dinner, going to visit family or friends, or going to stores like Home Depot or Walmart is not considered essential.
If you live in New Hampshire and travel here to work or school, the expectation is that you only do those essential things in NH as Vermonters are doing. This means not going out to eat in Littleton even if you live in Monroe.
We understand that this is just plain difficult and becoming more difficult the longer it lasts. I know people are doing their best, and we understand that students (and families) are becoming restless not being able to gather with their peers and families, but we need to keep doing the right things. I would encourage everyone to wear masks, even around friends.
Please also encourage your students to be kind with their peers as we hear about cases in the community, and show some compassion—don’t comment on social media, don’t gossip, don’t start or perpetuate rumors, and don’t make assumptions about people’s behavior. Our community can and should be a source of support and uplift, even and especially in times like these.
I expect we will have more moments coming up when we feel it’s necessary to pause and go online for a day as we gather more information and get clarity on what we’re dealing with. It is a reasonable measure, but it is also not ideal, and we will always prefer to get back to school if we can. Know that we are also thinking in the Academic Office and Departments about how to be sure online learning keeps students engaged, and considers things like screen time and the best ways to make the school day both structured and dynamic. We will talk more about that in future updates.
Communicating well with everyone is obviously also a priority, and we are doing the best we can to be timely and clear in our messages. It is also always helpful to hear from folks who have questions and concerns so we can address them and better understand what people want to hear about most urgently. Please never hesitate to be in touch with us at the COVID Response Team email: CovidResponseTeam@stjacademy.org. or with me directly at email@example.com.
Thank you as always for your support and partnership,
Dr. Sharon Howell
Update to Academy Families — October 30, 2020
Dear St. Johnsbury Academy Families,
It has been a couple of weeks since the last update, and as the holiday season fast approaches—along with an uptick of COVID-19 cases in our region—I want to update you on some of our planning for the next few months, and emphasize some important new requirements from the State of Vermont that will affect our decision-making.
I am proud of the effort that SJA has made to mitigate the risk of COVID on campus. Thank you to all families who are keeping sick students home and helping them to make the right choices about safe and appropriate behavior. But especially given the current map, which shows yellow and red zones encroaching, we shouldn’t let down our guard. Remember the Community Commitment we made at the beginning of this year—we committed to “do what is necessary to keep one another as safe and healthy as we can.” Let’s recommit to doing that.
While we recognize that it might not be possible, we aim to continue our hybrid school days until Winter Break, and we will need your help to make it happen. Many colleges and universities—and other high schools—are currently moving online or have already done so, and we are preparing for that possibility while hoping we can stay the course.
1. Holiday and Inessential Travel
Our expectations about limiting unnecessary travel have not changed—we will still adhere strictly to the State of Vermont’s guidelines about cross-state travel and accompanying rules about quarantines and testing. We continue to expect everyone to avoid unnecessary travel to any places requiring quarantine upon return.
We strongly urge you to consider these guidelines when making your holiday plans. If you go away for Thanksgiving, your student cannot return to school in-person until after he/she has quarantined.
This also goes for weekend trips and day trips. We know it will be challenging to make decisions about whether to visit family members—and that we are all tired of having to stay apart.
We know that many of you will have family visiting from out of state, or siblings coming home from college, etc. Here is the official language about this from the Vermont Department of Health:
If you are hosting travelers under quarantine in your home or lodging, you do not also need to quarantine. That means you can go to school, work, or the grocery store. However, you need to stay at least 6 feet from the people who are under quarantine. People under quarantine should wear a mask in common spaces, use a separate bathroom, eat separately, and otherwise not be in close contact with the people who are hosting them. Be sure to disinfect commonly touched surfaces, and check yourself for symptoms for 14 days.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out and ask our COVID coordinator about travel scenarios if you’re unsure (firstname.lastname@example.org).
2. Going Remote/Response to Cases
We are eager to continue being here on campus together. But there is a chance that we will need to move all of our instruction online. Please remember that we outlined the criteria we will consider when deciding whether to move online in our Roadmap (see “Pause or Shutdown Plans” in the Q and A). We will be consulting with the Department of Health and other state agencies to determine what move is most appropriate for us.
The Vermont Agency of Education may tell us at any time that we must move to what they call “Step I,” which is fully remote learning. In this case, and always, we will stay in close communication with you, as well as with our neighboring districts and schools, to stay informed about local cases and responses and use our best judgement about how to proceed.
3. December Final Exams
First Semester final exams will run during regular class days (classes will continue to run) in the December 7th-December 18th timeframe.
a. All final exams will be designed to be taken online.
b. The calendar for the final exams is as follows:
i. Wednesday, December 7 = Health
ii. Thursday, December 10 = English/Humanities
iii. Monday, December 14 = Social Studies
iv. Tuesday, December 15 = Math
v. Wednesday, December 16 = Languages
vi. Thursday, December 17 = Science
vii. Friday, December 18 = Make-ups
4. Planning for Next Semester
We have begun planning for Spring 2021, and as of now, we’re assuming that much of the hybrid structure and cohort schedule we have created will remain the same. We may be doing some different kinds of teaching within that structure, though; our faculty leaders are thinking together about the effects of screen time, and imagining ways we might ensure student engagement without so much of it.
5. Second Semester Start Date
We’ll begin 2nd semester classes on January 12th (as originally planned), and we will have more information about the rest of the spring schedule before too long.
6. Please Use the Portal!
Most everything you need to stay informed and involved is on our Parent Portal. You can access your student’s grade reports, comments, and attendance record; look at the school calendar, school announcements, and faculty and staff directory. You will also soon be able to access your student’s Canvas pages for each course and school billing statements. In the future all grade information will come through the portal, so do start using it now. Any questions about your credentials or how to access the portal, please contact the Academic Office: (email@example.com).
Finally, we are aware of the potential for tension and emotion around the upcoming election on Tuesday, and we will be holding chapel each day next week in order to start our days together and remind each other that we’re one community. I have faith that our students and faculty will be able to navigate this moment as they do others—with mutual respect, good humor, and the lively spirit of inquiry.
We will revive the practice of sending an update to you each Friday so that as the holidays and next semester approach, we can be sure you are getting the latest information and that we are answering your most pressing questions. In the coming weeks there will be more information about winter athletics, clubs and activities, and updates from the COVID response team. As always, please feel free to be in touch through the Roadmap or with me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for your partnership, for sharing your wonderful kids with us, and for helping us get stronger as we go through this time together.
Dr. Sharon Howell
Update to Academy Families — October 13, 2020
Dear St. Johnsbury Academy Families,
I want to offer a couple of timely updates today, particularly on developments in the last day or so that could affect our families, and that we are monitoring and looking to understand in terms of possible impact.
COVID in New Hampshire
The most significant of these is that this morning several New Hampshire counties reported an increase in COVID-19 cases, putting them in the “yellow” and “red” zones as defined by our Department of Health.
Fortunately, according to the ”Traveling to Vermont” guidelines, our day students can still travel back and forth daily from these counties to come to school despite these changes. The guidelines for travel from out of state read:
People traveling for essential purposes, including work, do not need to quarantine. Essential travel includes travel for personal safety, medical care, care of others, parental shared custody, for food, beverage or medicine, to attend preK-12 school and college if commuting daily, or to perform work for businesses that are currently allowed to operate. Individuals engaged in a daily commute to and from their job are expressly exempt from the need to quarantine by Executive Order.
We are continuing to work on how to anticipate any other travel complications that could arise, but in the meantime, please continue to refer to the guidelines and to the Cross State Travel information at the Agency of Commerce and Community Development when making decisions about travel.
Of course, we should also hear this news about the increased COVID cases so close to us as a caution against letting our guard down. Following our health and safety measures is still the best way to prevent the virus from coming to our campus, so please help us by being extra careful (e.g. masks go over the nose!).
October Break Reminder
Please remember that we’ve added some off-campus time into the end of this week.
Wednesday, 10/14: PSAT and SAT testing day, and a day off for students other than test takers.
Thursday, 10/15: All online with regular Thursday class schedule
Friday, 10/16: In-Service Day for faculty, Day off for students
Monday, 10/19: Holiday for all
Our Academic Office will be sending midterm grade reports and narratives next Friday, October 23rd.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions, and we will stay in touch.
Dr. Sharon Howell
Update to Academy Families — October 9, 2020
Dear St. Johnsbury Academy Families,
Yesterday afternoon and evening, many of you will have had the chance to connect with the teachers of your students during our virtual Meet the Teachers conferences. I hope that in your meetings with faculty you got a sense of just how dedicated they are to the growth and development of your children — these young people in whose success we are all invested. What we’re being required to do as a school to be open, safe, and worthwhile for students is strenuous, but what I see and hear from faculty, staff, and students alike is that our time together has tremendous value — and for some students there are upsides and opportunities where we would never have expected them.
I want to update you on a few important things — including a few adjustments coming up in our calendar — and appreciate in advance your flexibility and help. We recently realized that in the course of shifting our dates for the semester, October break was written out of the fall calendar. But there’s a reason that we usually have one! So we have put some respite back into the mix, not only to have a much-needed breather but also to allow some critical campus improvements to happen while we’re out of the buildings. Here’s what it looks like.
Wednesday, October 14th: PSAT/SAT Testing day
All students except junior and senior test takers are OFF
Virtual Academy teacher conferences
Thursday, October 15th
ALL Students ONLINE for regular full-day schedule
Friday, October 16th: “In-Service” Day
Faculty write narratives and reports for midterm
Students and staff have day off
Monday 19th: HOLIDAY for all
Tuesday 20th: Quarter 2 classes begin
We will keep to the regular weekly schedule and have our morning online on Friday, October 23rd. We very much hope that this extra day of rest will help us all return refreshed for the start of the 2nd quarter.
Virtual Academy Conferences and Virtual Boarding Parents’ “Weekend” — Dean of International Students Kendra Brazeau and her team of Virtual Academy teachers will be available to meet with parents of Virtual Academy students on the morning of Wednesday October 14th. Please watch for communication about this if you are among the Virtual Academy families. We are also planning to put together a short weekend program for all other boarding parents to replace the usual parents’ weekend opportunity. We will have more details on that program soon, and will communicate about signing up so you have plenty of lead time.
Travel Options for Thanksgiving and Winter Break — we have offered some different options to boarding families for travel over the coming breaks*, but I also want to remind day families that they need to continue to follow the Vermont State guidelines on travel outside the state, and if necessary, to quarantine for the required amount of time once they return. If you do choose to travel, we will ask you to finish the remainder of the term online. The world is changing fast, so we don’t know what things will look like at Thanksgiving, but we will hope that most students will be able to be here in person up until the December break — and to do that we will need families to be attentive and to work with us on following the right guidelines and staying safe.
Students Engaging and Attending During Online Days — we’ve been having difficulty helping some students to stay engaged while joining their classes online. We want to be clear that we are requiring students to check in and be in class during the online days — even if their teachers offer them asynchronous work to complete, they need to stay engaged and be included in attendance for their classes. Tracking student whereabouts could become critical in the case of contact tracing, but we also want to encourage respect for teachers and advisors, so please help us to keep students on track during “at-home” days, and remember that they are still accountable for being “in school” on those days.
Waiting Space in Cold Weather — we are working to find solutions for those students who arrive on campus earlier and leave later than our buildings are fully open, including using the library in the afternoon and the dining hall in the mornings. Know that we are aware this is an issue, and don’t want students to be left in the cold! We will guide students to go to spaces that are appropriate so they can stay warm and even do work after school in amenable spaces.
Physical Distancing Reminder — Tuesday the Agency of Education clarified that we are still required to maintain the 6-foot physical distancing requirement even as we have moved to “Step III.” We appreciate all you’re doing to make sure that students are healthy when they get here — COVID response coordinator Jack Driscoll tells us that we haven’t had even one student arrive with a fever — and hope you will help us reinforce the messages about distancing and also proper mask-wearing…which includes putting the mask up over your nose!
Civil Discourse — as we arrive in a contentious election season and watch political events unfold over the coming weeks, I want to remind families that we are committed to creating the conditions for students to encounter history, active citizenship, political science, and cultural literacy in a way that helps them to learn from us and from each other, but without hearing personal political views expressed in ways that might discourage free and open discussion. Our teachers are especially eager to provide historical and philosophical frameworks for our students to understand what’s happening today in its full, often complex, context; and they will be doing that in a number of forums. We are putting emphasis on these respectful conversations now and will continue to do so—hoping as ever to help students to disagree productively and make their way toward facts and truth through a charged atmosphere.
It has been joyful to watch our students in athletics over the last weeks, and I look forward to seeing clubs, such as Robotics and Theater, begin their work soon as well. Thank you as always for partnering with us not just to get through the pandemic but to thrive and find opportunities for special success. Just yesterday, Nelson Eaton, son of our Interim Academic Dean Hank Eaton, won the State Championship in golf despite having to play in the pouring rain. If that’s not an apt metaphor for us all in this moment, I don’t know what is.
Dr. Sharon Howell
*Travel Guidelines for Boarding Families
Option 1: Stay on Campus
Students will stay on campus for both Thanksgiving and Christmas Breaks. They will begin the spring semester on time on Tuesday, January 12.
Option 2: Return Home for the Holiday Break Only
Students will stay on campus for Thanksgiving break, complete the final three weeks of the fall semester, and then return home or go to an approved family/friend’s home. Students may depart beginning on Friday, December 18, and return to campus in January on assigned dates that will be provided once we know your travel plans. Quarantine will be required for those students flying, taking public transportation, or coming from areas from which the State of Vermont requires quarantine.
Option 3: Return Home for Thanksgiving Break, Remain Home Until January
Students will return home beginning Tuesday, November 24 for Thanksgiving Break, and then complete the final three weeks of the fall semester synchronously for classes and exams. Synchronous classes require students to sign-in during the class time scheduled here on campus. Student will return to campus in January on assigned dates that will be provided once we know your travel plans. Quarantine will be required for those students flying, taking public transportation, or coming from areas from which the State of Vermont requires quarantine.
Option 4: Return Home for Thanksgiving Break, Return to School after Thanksgiving
Those students living in “green” areas as defined by the Vermont Department of Health may go home for Thanksgiving Break beginning Tuesday, November 24 and then return to school on Sunday, November 29. Students will attend classes and take exams in person, and then leave for Holiday Break beginning on Friday, December 18. Students returning to school must not be exposed to people from areas that require quarantine according to the Vermont Department of Health. By choosing this option, families agree to abide by the Vermont Department of Health quarantine requirements.
What is the daily schedule for 2021?
View and download the 2021 Daily Schedule.
Please explain the latest updates (9/4/20) on students or family members with COVID-19 symptoms?
Because of the very low rate of COVID-19 cases, the Vermont Department of Health and our local pediatricians suggest that healthy asymptomatic students can attend school even if there is a person with illness symptoms at home. That recommendation excludes students with a known COVID-19 exposure or recent high-risk travel. Students with a single symptom (fever < 24 hours, sore throat, runny nose, muscle aches, fatigue, diarrhea, or headache) can return to school 24 hours after symptom improvement or resolution without a COVID test.
To be clear, if the rates of COVID-19 increase and as we learn more about the need (or no need) for testing, we will make changes.
The health office will continue to monitor each student who reports illness and work with their families and primary care physician to help them return to school safely.
As a reminder, students should STAY HOME if they have any of the symptoms listed.
We will ask parents to monitor their children prior to coming to school and staff should monitor themselves:
Fever (100.4° Fahrenheit or higher), chills, or shaking chills
Cough (not due to other known cause, such as chronic cough)
Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
New loss of taste or smell
Headache when in combination with other symptoms
Muscle aches or body aches
Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
Fatigue, when in combination with other symptoms
Nasal congestion or runny nose (not due to other known causes, such as allergies) when in combination with other symptoms
Been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID
Traveled to a high risk area in the last 14 days
How was it decided to split the day school population by alphabet and not by class?
To decrease the density of each classroom, we were unable to split the student body by graduation class. Because most classrooms have students from the same grade and we are required to achieve the 6-foot distance requirement, we needed to split the individual classroom student size in half. The class will run as normal, with half of the class sitting in-person, while the other half remotes in. Those students remoting in will still be active participants in the class and will need to attend at the regular class time schedule for attendance purposes. This will also keep students on a normal schedule.
Which days will day students attend in person?
We have used the alphabet as a starting point to build our green and white cohorts, who will attend school in person, on campus, on alternate days from Monday-Thursday. All students will be online on Friday mornings. We will balance the numbers in each cohort based on multiple factors such as section size, family coordination, resident student attendance, and other specific needs—but by and large you can assume your cohort from your last name. Here is how the week will look:
Monday and Wednesday: Green Cohort (approximately A-K) on campus; White Cohort (approximately L-Z) online.
Tuesday and Thursday: White Cohort (L-Z) on campus; Green Cohort (A-K) online.
Fridays: mornings online with abbreviated class periods, from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; afternoon optional projects starting at 1:30 p.m. for students in CTE, arts, and other hands-on courses.
Specific details will follow about Fridays. We are reaching out to those students with specific needs to make sure they are accommodated properly, including those with internet access difficulties. We have clear parameters to determine those students who will need be on campus daily. To submit questions or requests, please be sure to use this form.
Can you explain how you came up with the daily schedule?
In an effort to make our schedule more predictable and easier to manage week to week, instead of rotating our green and white groups every other day, we will do the following:
- One group will join us on campus Mondays and Wednesdays, and the other group on Tuesdays and Thursdays, each week.
- On Fridays, we will go remote in the morning, offering a half day of short period, all-online classes. This will be followed by a flexible afternoon with opportunities for teachers to have individual meetings with students, or for students in sciences, arts, and/or CTE courses to come to campus on alternate weeks to work on projects and other enrichment activities.
One size does not fit all when it comes to creating reasonable plans. Much of our work has been to understand what the current crisis will require from St. Johnsbury Academy, in particular, and to adapt and interpret official public health mandates to fit the Academy’s unique daily life, culture, and mission.
Will my day student have downtime during the online school days?
Day students studying on remote days will be required to attend their normal classes at the regular time via Zoom. The school day runs from 7:55 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. each day. Students are expected to attend the full day and attendance will be taken.
If we have unreliable internet access, can you suggest alternative options?
We are conscious of those students who have struggled with reliable internet access. Here are a few possible ways to mitigate this issue:
Students without internet service will be able to come to campus daily, and on online days will join their classes remotely from a designated, supervised area on campus. Again, we will reach out to those of you we are aware of, but please reach out to us if this is a hardship for you.
Students can access the internet from alternate spaces in communities such as libraries, that are nearer their homes.
The Department of Public Service has introduced the Line Extension Customer Assistance Program (“LECAP”) provides up to $3000 in assistance to qualifying and eligible consumers who seek to extend telecommunications lines to their homes. Hundreds of Vermonters without 25/3 Mbps broadband service live just beyond the reach of current cable and other Internet Service Providers’ networks. We hope this might help connect some families.
What measures are being put in place to protect the health and safety of the community?
We have established a team of campus life, health center, and facilities staff who will be continuing to develop protocols and clear guidance for all of us around community wellness. The team consists of:
Dr. Sharon Howell, Headmaster
Beth Choiniere, Assistant Head for Campus Life
Jack Driscoll, Dean of Students
Sarah Garey, Director of Health Services
Kurt Zschau, Director of Facilities
Plans are in place to monitor comprehensive measures regarding recommended use of physical spaces and campus facilities, screening and reporting policies, and changes in on-campus behaviors, some of which are now familiar to all and some of which will require orientation and education. These measures meet and exceed the recommendations of the Vermont Department of Health, and include:
Mask wearing—We will require all faculty, staff, and students to wear facial coverings while in buildings, as well as in other settings, or outside where reasonable physical distancing cannot be maintained. Adults dropping off and picking up students should wear facial coverings. Instructions for making, wearing, and washing facial coverings can be found on the CDC website. We ask that students bring their own masks, but we will provide reusable masks at orientation and disposable masks throughout the year as they are needed.
Hand washing—additional hand-washing stations and hand sanitizer will be installed in classrooms, dorms, and other public spaces.
Social distancing—we will expect all to practice social distancing. We are reconfiguring classrooms and other spaces to allow for reasonable distancing, and analyzing what that means for our dining hall, field house, buses, and larger public spaces.
Limited gatherings—we will follow evolving state guidelines and consider the limitations of our physical spaces in limiting the number of people allowed to gather.
Use of outdoor spaces—our faculty and staff are looking at options for conducting classes and activities outdoors when possible as research shows being in fresh air mitigates the spread of the virus.
Evaluating HVAC systems and ventilation—there is good guidance and support for improving systems to conduct and circulate fresh air indoors.
Increased disinfecting and cleaning—our facilities team has already put protocols in place for cleaning and disinfecting at the recommended levels and frequencies.
Daily screening—all students will be screened daily for temperature and symptoms of COVID-19—staff and faculty will continue to self-screen and report.
Encouraging staying home when sick—we will insist that boarding students with any symptoms related to COVID-19 be isolated and cared for in a dedicated spot away from the center of campus with private baths, proctor presence, and access to pediatric care until they have recovered and can return to school. Faculty, staff, and day students will be required to return home if symptoms are present and seek medical support from their primary doctors.
Testing, quarantine, and travel restrictions—we are planning to stagger arrival of boarding students within a timeframe that will enable them to quarantine according to state mandates. Day students who have visited or are traveling from non-approved counties as indicated by the State of Vermont (https://accd.vermont.gov/covid-19/restart/cross-state-travel) will need to quarantine at home prior to coming to school.
Response to infection on campus—we are developing our response to infection on campus and will work closely with the Department of Health on those protocols. Please visit our Pause or Shutdown Plans below this section for deciding when it would be necessary to cancel some activities, move online temporarily, or close school for a period of time. We have good quarantine space available for boarding students and will be working to “cohort” students in groups to limit contact and exposure.
Reduce the density of people on campus—to limit the number of students on campus per day, boarding students and day students with special circumstances will attend classes every day while most day students will attend school in-person on campus every other day.
Traffic flow and campus signage—we are analyzing how to limit movement during the day, control traffic flow through campus, and post clear signs across campus and in buildings to help guide students to follow health and safety protocols.
Transportation—we will be limiting off-campus trips and most field trips.
Visitors—we will be strictly limiting all visitors to campus.
How early can students arrive on campus during the school day?
Our buildings will be locked until 7:45 a.m., including the Field House and Library, to eliminate students congregating in any one area. We are asking students to arrive at 7:45 a.m. and once through their health screening they will go immediately to their advisory location.
If my child feels sick during the school day where should they go?
This year the Health Office will be located in Tinker House which is located on Main Street across from Fuller Hall.
This space will allow for two separate entrances and an isolation room if needed. Signage on the doors will help to direct visitors to the appropriate entrance depending on need.
The front door, located on Main Street, will be for appointments with the counselor, medication needs, injuries, and other non-COVID symptom issues. The side door, located adjacent to the Tinker parking lot, will be for anyone with COVID symptoms, such as cough, congestion, runny nose, sore throat, and fever. This space allows us to have an isolation room for anyone who is not feeling well until they can be picked up by their family.
What should we do if my child has COVID-like symptoms?
Day students who are staying home or who are sent home because of COVID-like symptoms will need to call their primary care provider and follow their instructions regarding the need for a COVID test. The Health Office will be calling those families to walk them through the return to school policy. Boarding students will be screened every morning in their dorms and anyone who may have COVID-like symptoms will be quarantined until we receive the results of a COVID test.
Do day students have the option to do full-time remote learning?
We will open school with a hybrid schedule (in-person 2 days, remote 3 days) or a fully remote option (remote all 5 days). If you are interested in five day remote learning, please contact Dean of Academics Hank Eaton (email@example.com) or our Director of Guidance Sean Murphy (firstname.lastname@example.org) to discuss the options.
What is your policy for wearing masks while at school?
In order to establish and maintain a safe and healthy school community it is imperative that, along with frequent hand washing and proper social distancing, everyone wear an effective and properly fitting face mask at all times when on campus.
A well secured solid color or print pattern cloth mask that fits snugly against the face and covers an individual’s nose and mouth. It must be made of a material that prevents the discharge of respiratory droplets from a person’s nose or mouth.
KN-95, N95 masks
Medical/Procedural (3-ply disposable) masks
Commercial or Home-made 2-ply cloth masks
Face coverings with exhaust valves
Bandanas, gaiters, or buffs
Face coverings with materials such as mesh or lace fabrics
Face coverings that do not cover the nose and mouth
Face coverings that cover the entirety of the face and forehead
Face coverings with logos (St. Johnsbury Academy logo is acceptable), slogans, flags, or any other type of messaging
What is the Zoom dress code?
Students attending class via Zoom should be neat, clean, and appropriate. Ties or Academy gear are not required.
Will students be allowed to use cell phones during the school day?
Cell phones will be permitted during passing times only.
Other Important School Opening Information
Spring School Lunch Announcement
St. Johnsbury Academy has been approved to continue participation in the USDA Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) through the State of Vermont Child Nutrition Program. Meals will be provided to all enrolled children free of charge. In response to the current COVID-19 crisis, the USDA has extended the eligibility of the SFSP allowing us to participate in the program through June 30, 2021. Funds providing free lunch to students, including those enrolled in Vermont approved independent schools, will be through the end of the school year, or until the additional funds are exhausted, whichever comes first.
St. Johnsbury Academy will operate as a closed site meaning only students enrolled at St. Johnsbury Academy will be eligible to participate in the meal offerings.
The program does not discriminate based on race, color, national origin, sex, age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, and marital/civil union status, and there will be no discrimination in the course of the meal service. Meals will be provided at the sites and times as follows:
Breakfast — Streeter Hall Café
Grab and Go — 7:30 am-8:15 am Monday through Thursday
(Friday meals may be picked up after school in the dining hall on Wednesday or Thursday)
Packaged lunches will be delivered to student classrooms
11:55-12:25 am Monday through Thursday
(Friday meals may be picked up after school in the dining hall on Wednesday or Thursday)
Lunches will be pre-ordered using your student stjlabs account. You will receive an email with the menu for the following week from Campus Life.
In accordance with Federal civil rights law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) civil rights regulations and policies, the USDA, its Agencies, offices, and employees, and institutions participating in or administering USDA programs are prohibited from discriminating based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity in any program or activity conducted or funded by USDA.
Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication for program information (e.g. Braille, large print, audiotape, American Sign Language, etc.), should contact the Agency (State or local) where they applied for benefits. Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339. Additionally, program information may be made available in languages other than English.
To file a program complaint of discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, (AD-3027) found online at: http://www.ascr.usda.gov/complaint_filing_cust.html, and at any USDA office, or write a letter addressed to USDA and provide in the letter all of the information requested in the form. To request a copy of the complaint form, call (866) 632-9992. Submit your completed form or letter to USDA by:
Mail: U.S. Department of Agriculture
Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20250-9410;
Fax: (202) 690-7442; or
This institution is an equal opportunity provider.
Pause or Shutdown Plans
We have developed a range of plans based on different situations and circumstances that may require us to pause or shut down some or all school activities. A shutdown may be necessary based on any of the following scenarios:
- A statewide order to close due to any number of factors that are out of our control.
- The local public health department recommends a school shut down due to campus outbreak.
- Infirmary bed space, including all licensed infirmary surge space, has been utilized to its maximum capacity.
- An outbreak on campus where our COVID-19 cohort and quarantine spaces are maxed out.
- Health Center staffing does not allow for adequate coverage of the school’s Health Center facilities.
- Faculty/staff absenteeism is too high to carry out the daily operations of the school.
Related News Articles
The Sydney Morning Herald
January 31, 2021
The New Yorker
JUly 28, 2020
New York Times
JULY 22, 2020
JUne 2, 2020