Changes in COVID-19 Testing and Tracing

Dear Families,

These last two years have presented so many challenges to our school community and to our nation’s entire educational system. The faculty and staff at Vermont Academy remain committed to protecting our entire community, including our most vulnerable members who are at most risk from COVID-19 infection. 
Fortunately, the news in the scientific community is that Omicron is likely on the wane. We are consistently seeing mildly symptomatic or asymptomatic individuals. Nationwide, the Omicron variant has not been causing serious illness among vaccinated young people. These developments, in concert with changing State testing protocols and our ability to supply booster vaccines to the community, has led us to make the changes in protocols detailed below. 

Upcoming changes:
  • The State of Vermont is discontinuing the PCR surveillance testing program and replacing it with a rapid antigen testing program. We will no longer have access to the weekly testing. 
  • The State has directed all schools to discontinue contact tracing and shift to a new model of “presumed contact” with significant changes to related isolation protocols. 
  • Our protocols were designed to respond to the slower spreading nature of COVID-19 and its previous variants. In the face of the faster, wider spreading Omicron variant, these protocols have had an impact on the educational experience and mental well-being of those needing to isolate and have placed a large burden on our small Health Services staff. 
  • We need to focus our energy and support systems on those individuals who are experiencing symptoms and encourage students with even the mildest symptoms to seek medical attention from our Health Center staff.
Testing: 
  • Upon returning from the long weekend, February 10 will be our last day of campus-wide PCR surveillance testing.
  • Then we will shift to the use of rapid antigen testing of symptomatic individuals. 
  • We will conduct BD Veritor rapid antigen testing in our Health Services office with the cost of the test being charged to student accounts. The State is providing a supply of rapid antigen tests that we will be able to provide for families to use at home. 
Regarding contact tracing, when a symptomatic individual tests positive for COVID-19, in accordance with State guidance, we will begin testing their roommates and others with whom they have close, personal relationships. 

Our isolation policies for those who test positive remain the same and are available on our website. 

Throughout the past two years, we have consistently adjusted our protocols in response to an evolving situation and guidance from State and government agencies. We constantly weigh the educational experience, mental health, connectedness, and physical well-being of individuals as we look at the overall impact of COVID-19 on our community. We believe the above changes in protocols will allow us to maintain recommended COVID-19 safeguards while considering the significant collateral impact this pandemic has had, and continues to have, on young people. Families, thank you for your continued support and patience.

Please contact Assistant Head of School Mr. Brian Gilloran with questions or concerns about the changes detailed here. 

Warmly, 

Dr. Jennifer L. Zaccara
Head of School
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Vermont Academy is a coed college preparatory boarding and day school in southern Vermont, serving grades 9-12 plus a postgraduate year.