May 28, 2022

HSB Minutes 8-18-2021

Hartford Board of School Directors

School Board Community Engagement Meeting Minutes

August 18, 2021 @ 6:00 pm

In-Person at Hartford Town Hall and Online (Zoom) Meeting  

Public Link:


Members Present                                          Administrators Present

Kevin Christie                                                  Tom DeBalsi

Peter Merrill                                                    Cathy Newton

Nancy Russell                                                 Roy Hathorn

Russell North

Havah Armstrong Walther

Olivia Merrill

Sydney Stillman 


          1.  Call to Order 

Mr. Christie called the Community Engagement Meeting to order at 6:00 PM. Mr. DeBalsi introduced Roy Hathorn; Cathy Newton; Susie Walker; Felicia Hayes, HHS Nurse and Covid Coordinator; and Andrea Davis, Covid Coordinator.  

-        Welcome School Board Student Representatives
     Mr. Christie welcomed the new student representatives in attendance. Mr. DeBalsi introduced Sydney Stillman, a junior, and Olivia Merrill, a senior. Mr. Christie explained to the group how the student representative seats work. He thanked them for attending the summer board retreat. 
-        Changes, Additions and Approval of Agenda
     Mr. DeBalsi asked that the board take action after the COVID discussion.

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mr. North to approve the agenda as presented, motion carried.   

          2.  Engagement Topics

-        School Opening 2021-22 School Year COVID – 19 Guidance
     Mr. DeBalsi reviewed the guidance from the Agency of Education. The State of Emergency was lifted in June, which made the AOE less powerful in their requirements to local school districts. Without the State of Emergency from the Governor this becomes a public health issue. The guidance is around three points: keeping it out of the schools, stopping it from spreading, and removing it if it does get in the schools. Masking inside will be required, the AOE recommended for the first 10 days. The school nurses met today with their state organization, they agreed with the districtwide mask mandate.  The isolation rooms are still in place in each building when anyone is showing symptoms. Several vaccine clinics will be held at HHS. When students are outside masks will not be required. Masks will be off while eating with social distancing. School busses are considered mass transportation, masks will be necessary. There will be seating charts for busses, for contact tracing. There will be surveillance testing every Thursday for any students who have parental permission. No visitors will be allowed in schools without permission and a purpose. All students will be dropped off outside. 

Mrs. Hayes noted the distancing protocol from last year will not be followed. Anyone showing any symptoms should stay home and contact their medical provider. Breakthrough infections are more common due to the new variants.  
Mrs. Russell shared with the board that the VSBA shared language about boards taking action requiring masks in school. 

Mr. DeBalsi, shared that the VPA has announced that outside activities will not require a mask. He noted that any inside activities will require masks. Mrs. Hayes concurred about inside activities and live streams for the audience.

Mr. North asked about travel guidance. Will there be any recommendations? Mr. DeBalsi said there is no guidance about that as of yet. He then asked about how we are informing parents and the community. 

Mr. DeBalsi suggested that the board consider giving him permission to adjust or change the guidelines. He will give weekly updates to the families and that information will be shared with the community via the district website. Ms Merrill asked that these updates be available on the HHS daily announcements. 

Mr. Christie suggested the board give Mr. DeBalsi authority to do this as is done over the summer for other district needs. He further suggested that links be made available on the district page with the COVID updates. 

Mr. Merrill noted the many ways that the district communicates with the public. He assumes that Mr. DeBalsi will be using many communication methods for these COVID updates. Given the district’s style of Policy Governance, he believes that the superintendent already has the authority and no motion is needed.

Mr. DeBalsi believes that having the authority to make the mandates addressing the health needs of students is necessary. 

Mrs. Russell noted three statutes that boards have the right to give the superintendent authority regarding the health and safety of students and staff. 

Mr. Christie asked for public input. Geri asked what percentage of the staff and faculty have been vaccinated. Mr. DeBalsi said the district does not have that information as he can not ask. She is happy to hear that there will be regular updates, but reminded the group about the community members who don’t have children in schools. She reminded the board that she wrote to them all and did not receive a response from anyone. Mr. DeBalsi responded that all meeting information and updates are on the district website. He asked for other ideas about where meetings should be posted. He will post on the Hartford Listserv with a link to the district site. Mr. North said it was posted on the school board page. Ms Walther warned of the safety of live hyperlinks. 

Ms Walther read some of the Q and A notes. Ms Tessa Johnson shared that there is a COVID Response Page on the district site. She keeps this updated regularly. Someone asked about assigned seating on the busses, should she contact the bus company? Mr. DeBalsi said during the first week of school a chart will be created by building staff. The bus drivers will need to enforce this. Video camera film will be reviewed should there be a positive case on a bus. No pre registration will be required. Someone asked about the availability of remote learning while a student with symptoms is home. This will be explored, the guidance communication will list the outcome. Someone asked about the protocol of moving to a hybrid model. Mr. DeBalsi would look to the public health officials for guidance on this. The AOE has asked that no student be totally remote, if the family wants this they would need to apply for homeschooling status.  

Ms Stillman asked about school planned travel, abroad or nationally. Will this depend on vaccination status or not allowed? Mr. DeBalsi noted that as of today there are no travel guidelines. 

Ms Merrill asked about the testing, will that happen during the school day? Mr. DeBalsi said yes, by school personnel during the school day. Older students will complete the test themselves. Younger children will be tested by a school staff member. Mrs. Hayes stated that it will be done in the least disruptive manner. Ms Merrill asked about the disruption of the testing, will it deter students from being tested? Mrs. Hayes stated other schools that are participating found that after the initial testing it became much faster.

Mr. Merrill asked about whether the district is considering vaccination mandates as endorsed by the two national education associations. Mr. DeBalsi responded, “No.”

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mr. North, that the Hartford School Board gives the superintendent authority to modify the district COVID Recovery Plan as needed to provide the safest environment under the current conditions so that students can attend and remain in school for in-person learning. The superintendent is entrusted to continue to develop the details of the plan. He will rely on all relevant guidance, he will consult the inhouse COVID Task Force. The HSB and the community will receive updates relating to any changes to the protocols. There will be clear announcements regarding adjustments to the plan which may occur. 

     Motion carried.

Mr. DeBalsi thanked the COVID coordinators for their work last year and for what they continue to do for the safety of students and staff this year. Their hard work is appreciated. 


-        School Board Representatives on Town-wide Committees
     Mr. North explained to the group that there are committees that need board representatives to act as liaisons. Board members signed up as follows:
o   HCOREI- Mr. North, Ms. Walther
Ms Merrill said there is a student rep on the HCOREI committee.
o   Sister-city- Ms Walther

o   Select Board- Mr. North

o   Regional Collaborative- Mr. Merrill

o   Policy- Mr. Merrill

o   Finance- Mr. Christie, Mr. North

o   Negotiations- Mr. Christie, Mr. North

o   Hartford Community Coalition- Mrs. Russell 

o   VSBA- Mrs. Russell

o   Community Outreach- Mr. North, Ms Walther

          3.  Next Meeting 

-        Annual Work Plan to include the Community Engagement Meetings

-        Facilities Plan

4.  Adjournment

Moved by Mr. Merrill, seconded by Mrs. Russell,  to adjourn at 7:41 PM, motion carried.

Mr. Christie thanked the administrative team for the preparation to start the year. 



Respectfully submitted,

Cherrie Torrey



Next Regular School Board Meeting is September 8, 2021 at 6:00 PM*

(In person at Town Hall and Zoom)