POWNAL — The continuing COVID-19 pandemic has already had an impact on the school year in Bennington County, as Pownal Elementary School and Arlington Memorial High School both saw their operations affected by positive tests for the virus this week.
Pownal Elementary canceled classes for Thursday as the result of a second positive test within the school community.
“We were notified of a second positive test of COVID-19 within the Pownal Elementary School learning community,” the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union website said Wednesday. “In order to allow for contact tracing the building will be closed for students ... Staff will be expected to report to the building as normal. Because most families have yet to receive their Chromebooks for the year, students are not expected to engage in remote learning at this time.”
“Reminder: if your student is ill or if you are awaiting a COVID-19 test, please keep your child home and contact your school nurse,” the post said.
SVSU public information coordinator Katie West said that the district received word of the first positive test around 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, then word of a second came through around 5 p.m. At that point, a decision was made to close and conduct contact tracing.
It was unclear at press time Thursday if Pownal Elementary would be open as usual on Friday.
The entire SVSU — elementary, middle and high school — has a mask mandate in place for the first quarter of the year, with the policy being re-evaluated at the end of the quarter. All students, teachers and staff at all of its member schools are required to wear a mask indoors.
At Arlington Memorial Middle and High School, students were sent home early Wednesday due to a second positive case in the school.
In an email to parents, the school announced that classes for grades 6-12 would be dismissed at 2 p.m. “so [the] COVID 19 team can begin contact tracing.” Another email later in the day told parents that the school had learned that “a person in our high school learning community” had COVID-19.
“We recommend that you take action to help limit the spread of COVID-19, even if your child is not experiencing symptoms,” said the email from principal Sarah Pickering.
SVSU Assistant Superintendent William Bazyk confirmed that another student had tested positive the previous week.
Classes and activities resumed Thursday.
The Arlington School District board is holding a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 9, to review the Agency of Education’s COVID-19 guidance. The meeting will be held outside if weather allows, with the AMHS gym the backup.
To date, 81.6 percent of eligible Bennington County residents ages 12 and up have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. As a state, a U.S.-leading 86.6 percent of Vermonters eligible for the vaccine have received at least one dose.