Update to Academy Families — March 5, 2021

Bell tower an flag
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


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