August 13, 2021

Dear TSD Families,

I hope you are as thrilled as we are for the start of the new school year.  We officially started our year for teachers this past Tuesday.  The energy of all being together in person in the same rooms after so many months of isolation was amazing, and the anticipation of students returning is evident.  Our staff will be working hard right up through next Tuesday to plan for the upcoming year and all that entails.  We are also thrilled to be starting the year with sports and activities as back-to normal as possible.

You may have heard that many districts across our state and country are struggling to fill teacher positions for the start of their school year.  I am happy to announce that, while we still have some support staff positions to fill, our teacher and other professional level positions are all filled.  I had the pleasure of spending the day last Monday with our new teachers for a full day orientation, and am impressed with what they bring to our district.

Please join me in welcoming and congratulating the following staff as they enter into new positions in our district, whether new to our community or changing roles:

  • Dakota Passero will be our new Special Education Teacher at TES
  • Sherri Leeper will be our new Grade 5 Dual Immersion English-side Teacher at TIS
  • Claudia Tassier will be our new Grade 6 Dual Immersion Spanish-side Teacher at TIS
  • Roberta Padilla will be one of our new Specialist/Interventionists at TIS
  • Carley Wallin will be our new Grade 3-6 Counselor at TIS
  • Lucia Molinero will be our new TIS Spanish and TMS Spanish Social Studies & Science teacher
  • Dori Crowe will be our new Library & Media Specialist at TMHS
  • Ursula Cristol will be our new ELL teacher at THS
  • Holly Coddington will be our new English teacher at THS
  • Liz Forsythe will be our new Special Education – Transition teacher at THS
  • Bridget Hintz will be one of our new Science teachers at TMS & THS
  • David Hoover will be our other new Science Teacher at THS
  • Rex Lybrand will be our new College Counselor at THS
  • Lauren O’Hare will be one of our new Math teachers at THS
  • Greg Morgan will be our other new Math teacher at THS
  • Cela White will be our new Grade 7-10 Counselor at TMS & THS
  • Alex Jones will be our Grade 11-12 and Mental Health Counselor at THS
  • Erika de Maquera will be our new TSD Cultural Liaison
  • Betsy Muennich will be our new TSD School Nurse
  • Brittany Picard will be our new TSD Board Certified Behavior Analyst
  • Joanna MacDonald will be our new TSD Dual Immersion Coordinator

In addition, the following staff will be moving from their previous teacher positions to Specialist positions:

  • Lorrie Gardner at TES for Grade 1
  • Michelle Foote at TES for Grade 2
  • Lauren Quimby at TIS for Literacy
  • Caroline Farkouh at TIS for Literacy
  • Shelby Thomas at TIS for Math

Some of these new positions are funded by federal COVID relief dollars.

We are still registering students using our online registration process.  Please reach out to your school office staff with any questions.  Assistance is also available in the Palm Lobby on Monday from 9:00am – 1:00pm, for anyone who wants to walk in.

There has been much discussion, both inside our school walls and outside, regarding who should wear masks and when.  Our decisions utilize all of the information that we gather from a variety of sources and consider our own unique context.  We know that we have an extremely low vaccination rate in our Prek-6 schools, and an extremely high vaccination rate in our grade 7-12 schools.  We know that we have greatly enhanced ventilation in all of our buildings, and have the ability to have windows open at this time of year to improve ventilation even more.  We know that we will have a solid surveillance testing program in place.  We also know that the delta variant is extremely contagious, and we know that transmission among school-aged children is lower than among adults.  We know that anyone who is symptomatic or COVID positive must isolate!  All of that information, and more, factors into our decisions.  We also know that we can change our protocols quickly if circumstances dictate, and we acknowledge that should mandates come down from above, whether at the federal, state, or local level, we will comply.  With all of that said, below are the protocols we have in place as of right now.  While these have not changed much from my previous communications, there are a few important changes and clarifications:

  • Grades PreK-6:
    • Indoors: All students and adults will wear masks; exceptions to this might include when a teacher is doing a read-aloud, and when students are transitioning out to recess or the cafeteria.
    • Outdoors:  Masks are optional for students and staff.
  • Grades 7-12:
    • Indoors: With the recent increase in Delta variant cases, we are strengthening our masking protocol as follows:
      • For vaccinated students and staff, masks are still optional but strongly encouraged until we see a decrease in numbers, until our own test data confirms low transmission, and until tourist traffic slows down in our community.
      • All unvaccinated staff and students should wear masks.
    • Outdoors:  Masks are optional for students and staff.
  • Visitors:  Masks will be required for all visitors during the student day.  For school events outside the student day, administration will communicate regarding which events might require masks for all, and which events might recommend but not require masks.
  • Student Transportation: Masks are mandated by federal law, with no exceptions.
  • COVID Testing: We have confirmed that we can continue the MicrogenDX testing that we had in place last spring for students, and use this for staff as well.  A few details are as follows:
    • We will hopefully be able to use oral swabs for all ages, so students will no longer need to spit into a sample vial.  The oral swab gently swabs around the inside of the mouth and cheek, so it quicker and more fun than spitting.  There is currently a shortage on swabs, so we will start with swabs for PreK-2 and spit for grades 3-12, like last year, but hope to use swabs for all soon.
    • We plan to have weekly testing for all students who have a waiver in place.  For those students who do not have a waiver in place from last year, we will have waivers available.
    • MicrogenDX now has an automated response portal available where results are reported directly to parents by text or email.  More information on that will be shared soon.
    • We hope to have school-site testing in place by the week of August 23.  San Miguel County has community testing available at the Lawson Hill lot on Monday, August 16 and Tuesday, August 17.  Please consider having your student tested before school starts, especially if you have been traveling.
  • Isolation/Quarantine and Return to Learn:  San Miguel Public Health has provided the following flowcharts which will guide any decisions on isolation, quarantine, and return to learn:

With the highly transmissible delta variant in our community, it is more important than ever that anyone who is symptomatic isolate immediately and not come to school.  The flowcharts above provide details on that, and we are counting on your support in understanding when a student needs to stay home.  This will keep everyone safe and keep our schools open.

This is a beautiful time of year and we live in a beautiful place.  I feel so lucky to be here and serve as your Superintendent.  I hope you have a fantastic, fun, and restful weekend, and I look forward to  seeing your students next Wednesday.

With gratitude,

John Pandolfo