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Remote learning on the rise as COVID contacts force quarantines

  • Martha Dawson, a medical assistant with Convenient MD Urgent Care, packs up the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services Mobile Vaccine Van, after a quiet morning at the Sunapee State Park beach in Newbury, N.H., giving no vaccinations on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021. Patrick Twomey, Convenient MD’s coordinator with DHHS, said interest has varied during the van's tour of New Hampshire State Parks, which continues through Sept. 30. He said 30 vaccines were administered at Wallis Sands State Beach in Rye, N.H. on Tuesday. “It’s usually famine or feast for us,” said Dawson. “We take it as it comes.” The van will return to Sunapee on Saturday Sept. 25 from 8 a.m. to 12:30. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 9/23/2021 9:39:14 PM
Modified: 9/23/2021 9:39:19 PM

SPRINGFIELD, Vt. — Schools and child care centers in the Twin States continue to feel the effects of the delta variant.

Hundreds of students on the Vermont side of the Upper Valley are learning remotely this week, as a result of close contact with people with COVID-19. That includes about 200 students in the Springfield (Vt.) School District, as well as three grade levels at Weathersfield School and one at the South Royalton campus of the White River Valley Elementary School.

On the New Hampshire side of the region, a classroom at FitKids Childcare at River Valley Club in Lebanon is closed and the 10 children in the class are in quarantine until next week due to at least one positive case. The facility is requiring all workers to be vaccinated by Nov. 4, according to information given to parents.

Case counts also continue to tick upward at Indian River School in Canaan, and Disnard Elementary School in Claremont also reported a case this week.

Vermont schools are requiring quarantine for unvaccinated close contacts of positive cases, while New Hampshire schools are directing close contacts to self-monitor for symptoms and get tested. Schools in both states ask that those with symptoms stay home.

The large number of quarantines in Springfield are a result of nine cases in all four of the district’s schools in the past week, according to a Wednesday message to the community from Superintendent Zach McLaughlin. The tally includes four cases at Riverside Middle School, two at the high school, two at Elm Hill School and one at Union Street School.

Two classrooms at Elm Hill and one at Union were closed on Thursday. Springfield schools were otherwise open and operating as normal, he said.

At this time, schools are not allowed to shift to remote learning for the majority of students in a school, McLaughlin said. If a school did shift to remote learning for all students, the day would not count as an official school day, he said.

Part of the reason for the nearly 200 required quarantines in Springfield is that moving back to in-person instruction five days a week this school year has increased the density in schools and made it more difficult to keep students socially distanced, he said.

Even so, McLaughlin said it does not appear that students are transmitting the virus while at school. McLaughlin urged community members to take steps to prevent the spread in other settings.

“When students are here, we continue to take preventative measures, like universal masking, that we believe are limiting transmission,” he said. “If we are going to keep your kids and your neighbor’s kids in school, we need you to be similarly diligent on the home front and in the broader community.”

In order to bring students back to school more quickly as many testing sites around the region are experiencing delays, the district has partnered with the Vermont Department of Health and Springfield Hospital to set up special testing clinics, McLaughlin said.

He urged people age 12 and older to get vaccinated against COVID-19. People who are vaccinated are not required to quarantine due to exposure to a positive case unless they develop symptoms.

“We have students ... who will continue to be able to attend school while carefully monitoring for COVID-like symptoms,” McLaughlin said. “I would like to have more of our school community be able to do the same.”

Meanwhile in Canaan, Indian River School reported two new cases on Wednesday and another three on Thursday afternoon. That’s on top of five others school officials had previously reported. Though the cases continue to climb, they do not appear to be related or to constitute a cluster, Amanda Isabelle, superintendent of the Mascoma Valley Regional School District, said on Thursday morning. The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services defines a cluster as three or more related cases and an outbreak as two or more clusters.

“School remains open and operating on a normal schedule,” Isabelle said.

The single case at Claremont’s Disnard Elementary School, which school officials announced on Wednesday, came on the heels of the announcement of seven cases at Stevens High School earlier this month.

With 44 active cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, Claremont had the most of any Upper Valley municipality, at least on the New Hampshire side. That was just above Newport’s 38 cases. Both Sullivan County communities have vaccination rates below the state average.

Upcoming COVID-19 vaccine clinics in the Upper Valley include one at Springfield High School, 303 South St., from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday. The clinic will be open to those 12 and older and offering the first or second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. More information about vaccines is available online at healthvermont.gov/covid-19/vaccine/getting-covid-19-vaccine or vaccines.gov.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.




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