Officials have recently reported more cases in schools
Public schools in Chittenden County remained coronavirus-free since reopening on September 8 — until this week. Over the last few days, three public schools in Vermont’s most populous county reported positive COVID-19 cases, though none have closed as a result.
The Department of Health is also currently investigating school-based COVID-19 cases in Windsor and Manchester, as well as cases connected to youth and adult hockey teams that play at Central Vermont Memorial Civic Center in Montpelier, Health Commissioner Mark Levine said at a press briefing on Tuesday.
Vermont’s school-related COVID-19 cases are well below other northern New England states, Financial Regulation Commissioner Michael Pieciak said Tuesday. In New Hampshire, there have been more than 100 cases of coronavirus in 68 schools since the school year started. And in Maine, he said, there have been 71 cases associated with its schools.
Vermont’s largest school district is one of those with a new case. On Sunday, Champlain Valley School District superintendent Elaine Pinckney notified families of a case at Williston Central School, which serves students in grades 3 through 8. The Department of Health was to begin contact tracing on Monday morning, she wrote. The last potential school exposure occurred on October 2.
Meanwhile, in South Burlington, the district learned on Saturday that a high school student tested positive, superintendent Dave Young wrote in an email sent Monday to parents and staff. Young said that contact tracing had already been completed, and that the positive student was working with the Department of Health to determine when it was safe to return to school.
The third Chittenden County case was reported Monday at Essex Elementary School and led Essex Westford district officials to keep kids in four kindergarten classes home on Tuesday. One of those classes will be allowed to return to school Wednesday, superintendent Beth Cobb and principal Ashley Gray said in an email.
All three school districts started the school year using a hybrid model, in which students were split into two groups and attended school two days a week. They are all now in the early stages of a phased reopening, in which younger students attend more days of in-person school.
In Essex, all K-5 students began attending school five days a week last Wednesday, and Cobb said the district would continue to move forward with that schedule.
In the Champlain Valley School District, which includes Williston, Shelburne, Charlotte and Hinesburg, kindergarten students ramped up to four days a week of in-person learning on October 5, and students in first and second grades are slated to attend school four days a week starting October 19.
In South Burlington, students in preK-2 have just begun four days a week of in-person learning. Students in grades 3-5 will start with four days a week of in-person instruction on October 26.
Cases in other parts of the state were also announced this week.
Kindergarten students at Manchester Elementary Middle School are attending school remotely this week after a student tested positive for COVID-19 through an antigen test, the Bennington Bannerreported. The district was awaiting the results of a follow-up PCR test.
Meanwhile, an employee at the preK-12 Windsor School, who had little contact with students or other staff members, tested positive for COVID-19 and was quarantining and following all protocols, Windsor Southeast Supervisory Union superintendent David Baker said in an email.
At Tuesday’s press conference, Levine said the Department of Health had not made any recommendations to close schools or move them to remote learning, but he said the department would support any decisions schools make. He added that there have not been any known cases of COVID-19 transmission within Vermont schools. All school-associated cases are among people who have been exposed to the virus in the community.