First Day of School, St. Albans Town Educational Center, 9-8-2020

Students arriving for their first day of school this year at the St. Albans Town Educational Center are screened for symptoms of COVID-19.

ST. ALBANS TOWN/FAIRFAX – New cases of COVID-19 have been found in two Franklin County schools, according to reporting from both school officials and Vermont’s health department.

According to a notice shared last Thursday by the school’s principal Angela Stebbins, an individual at the St. Albans Town Educational Center (SATEC) has tested positive for COVID-19.

Meanwhile, as of Nov. 18, two cases of COVID-19 had been connected to Bellows Free Academy – Fairfax’s middle and high school, according the Vermont health department’s latest update on COVID-19 activity in public schools.

In her short notice shared Thursday, Stebbins did not clarify whether the individual was a student or staff member, but said the individual testing positive for COVID-19 from SATEC had “been out of school” and has “taken all the right steps and stayed in quarantine.”

“Based on this,” Stebbins wrote in her notice, “there is no school-based contact tracing required, since the individual has been isolated and not been in school.”

According to the Franklin West Supervisory Union’s (FWSU) superintendent Jim Tager, two students from BFA – Fairfax had tested positive for COVID-19. Subsequent contact tracing had found the two students had likely contracted COVID-19 from outside of Bellows Free Academy, according to Tager.

“It was a community case,” Tager told the Messenger Monday, “so it was not spread inside the school.”

They and a handful of other students identified through contact tracing as close contacts had been asked to quarantine. According to Tager, the students’ quarantine period was scheduled to have ended late last week and impacted students are expected to return to BFA – Fairfax after Thanksgiving break.

According to the latest report from Vermont’s health department, 88 cases of COVID-19 in total have been found among staff and students in Vermont elementary, middle and high schools since public schools reopened in September.

State health officials have said there are only a few known cases of people contracting COVID-19 within schools. Most of those testing positive within Vermont schools, according to health officials, had likely contracted the disease within the wider community outside of school.

Late last month, the Maple Run Unified School District (MRUSD) announced an individual connected to St. Albans City School (SACS) had tested positive for COVID-19. At the time, the district’s superintendent said there was no sign of transmission within the school and no reason to transition the school to remote learning.

Another case would later be identified at SACS. Neither were considered “active” as of the health department’s latest report on COVID-19 within Vermont’s public schools.

MRUSD’s elementary schools in St. Albans and Fairfield have already brought most of their students from Kindergarten through the fourth grade back to in-person learning for four days a week.

According to testimony given by the district’s superintendent during a recent MRUSD school board meeting, MRUSD reportedly is planning on bringing most of its fifth and sixth graders back to in-person learning after Thanksgiving break.

Within FWSU, all three of the school’s elementary schools have brought students from Kindergarten through fourth grade back to in-person learning four days a week. One school, Fletcher Elementary School, had also managed allowing fifth and sixth graders to return to in-person classes as well.

Fifth and sixth graders were expected to return full-time to in-person learning at Bellows Free Academy and the Georgia Elementary and Middle School this month, but, with cases of COVID-19 surging both regionally and nationally, Tager said the supervisory union would likely delay that step until at least the New Year.

“Due to the rising cases across the country… we’re going to wait until after the New Year and take a look at that,” Tager said.

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