Vermont Wilderness School Response to COVID-19 (updates posted here)

Tuesday March 31st, 2020.

Dear VWS Community,

We hope you’re all doing ok!

We have a few small updates and will post more as soon as they are available:

  • Currently running youth programs (Foxwalk & Oyase) will not meet in-person until announced otherwise. As participants & staff are able we are moving to distance-learning & mentoring platforms instead.
  • Adults in currently running or scheduled spring programs (Birding by Ear, When Women Were Trees, Essentials of Resilient Community, Hunter’s Heart) are encouraged to reach out to VWS or the program director to explore transitioning to distance-learning platforms.

Summer program registration remains open, and a deposit for many programs are not required. We realize making summer plans is difficult at this time. We are waiving our standard practice of requiring a deposit upon registration. We encourage you to go ahead and register to save your slot (or add your name to the wait list if the program is full.) The due date for full payment (usually due in late Spring or early summer— see the program page for details) will remain the same as previous years. However, in the event that we need to cancel any summer program, you will be refunded in full.

In this time of uncertainty we are feeling grateful for all the ways nature invites us to remember the stability and ever-renewing cycles of the seasons. Don’t forget to take some time to tune in to what the community of life is saying!

Yours in gratitude,

The VWS Staff

 

Tuesday March 17th, 2020.

Dear VWS Community,

We want to share the following updates:

Currently-running youth programs will not meet in person, at least for the rest of March.

  • Foxwalk Forest School will not meet in person on Tuesday, March 24 and Tuesday, March 31.
  • Oyase Community School will not meet in person on Thursday, March 19 and Thursday March 26.

We will soon be sharing resources for children and families in these programs to connect via phone and/or internet with each other and with VWS staff members. This will begin with an Oyase Community School “Opening Circle” via Zoom, on Thursday, March 19 at 9am. Additional offerings are coming soon!

We are aware that the scope of the pandemic and the long-term societal response may impact VWS in-person gatherings for many months. Stay tuned for more information as the situation evolves.

As we get a better grasp on what is unfolding with March, April, & May programming, we will be adapting our refund policies for this circumstance.

Summer program registration remains open, and a deposit is not required. We realize making summer plans is difficult at this time. We are waiving our standard practice of requiring a deposit upon registration.

We encourage you to go ahead and register to save your slot (or add your name to the wait list if the program is full.) The due date for full payment (usually due in late Spring or early summer— see the program page for details) will remain the same as previous years. However, in the event that we need to cancel any summer program, you will be refunded in full.

We will post another update on this page no later than March 31.

In this time of uncertainty we are feeling grateful for all the ways nature invites us to remember the stability and ever-renewing cycles of the seasons. Don’t forget to take some time to tune in to what the community of life is saying!

Yours in gratitude,

The VWS Staff

Amy, Ash, Bob, Elissa, & Sam

 

Friday March 13th, 2020.

Dear VWS Program Participants, Participant Families, Staff, Volunteers, and Friends,

While the nation is monitoring the spread of coronavirus / COVID-19, we at the Vermont Wilderness School are assessing possible impacts to our programs and community members.

As always, the health and well-being of VWS’s community of children, families, program participants, and staff remain our highest priority. Of special concern are our elders and individuals with serious chronic medical conditions, many of whom are particularly vulnerable to this virus.

We are monitoring local, national, and global health organizations. This includes following guidelines and recommendations from the Vermont Department of Health, World Health Organization (WHO), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for school closure, travel plans, and quarantine. 

Please stay well-informed by visiting www.cdc.gov and www.healthvermont.gov for the most up-to-date information.

Until further notice, our programs will remain in operation. If you have specific questions about a program you are registered for, or are considering registering for, please review our FAQ page.

What follows is our COVID-19 protocol, designed to ensure the health and safety of all the children and staff at our programs. Please note that our protocols are subject to change as new information becomes available and related new risk assessments are made:

  • f you or your child is experiencing a fever with cough and/or respiratory symptoms, please stay home and follow the advice of your doctor. Please avoid others and do not return to our program until after the fever goes down and until the most conservative estimate of transmission has passed, currently set at 72 hours.
  • If you or your child appears to have symptoms of COVID-19 while at our programs, we will send them home.
  • If you or your child feel ill for any reason, please keep your child home. We are all better served when each of us gets rest and foster a strong immune system.
  • We will be practicing good hygiene and keep our hands as clean as possible. Given that we don’t have warm-water hand-washing stations in the field, all participants and instructors will use hand sanitizer before eating at a program.
  • After picking up your child, please encourage washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (or using a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, if soap and water are not available).
  • We will be encouraging everyone to avoid touching their faces. If it is necessary for an instructor to touch a participant’s face (i.e., in a medical intervention like helping them get a piece of dirt out of their eye), the instructor will wear safety gloves.
  • Please ensure that you or your child has their own, full water bottle with them at the program. We will not share or pass water bottles or food between people.
  • Skin to skin contact (such as shaking hands, hugging, etc.) should be paused until further notice.  Non skin-to-skin greeting, such as an elbow bump or a “footshake,” are good alternatives.
  • All games and activities that involve physical contact (such as palm tag or wrestling) or that use bandanas and most other shared objects will be suspended until the state of emergency comes to an end. (We may still use community tools like knives, hatchets and saws.  We will be sanitizing these using hydrogen peroxide spray).

What do I need to know about COVID-19?

Most people who become infected with this virus will experience mild illness and recover, but it can be more severe for others. Take care of yourself and protect others. You can help contain COVID-19 by knowing the signs and symptoms and seeking medical advice if you develop symptoms, especially if you have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19 or have recently traveled from an area with ongoing spread. 

What other measures might VWS have to take?

In the event of a COVID-19 outbreak in our community, the school will work  with the local public health authorities, the Vermont Health Department, and the CDC to determine the best course of action, following all public health protocols.

In the event that a temporary closure of programs is necessary, we will contact you with as much advance notice as possible. We recommend that your family takes time now to develop a plan for how you will handle childcare if we need to pause programming.  Having a “go to” plan now will save a last-minute scramble, as the situation is bound to change in the coming weeks.  

What do I do about my, my child’s, or my family’s travel plans?

Please evaluate your family’s travel plans for the remainder of the program year, including your plans over the April break.  If you are planning to travel, please consult the CDC travel website for travel advisories and restrictions and contact your family physician for any concerns that you may have about travel and precautions that you should be taking. 

If you are traveling to a country where an Alert Level 2 or Warning Level 3 or 4 exists, or if you have been in contact with a traveler who has recently returned from these areas, please notify us.

How can I help my children understand what is happening with coronavirus?

How do We Talk to Children About Coronavirus? is a good article about talking to your children about the coronavirus and decreasing any anxiety that may develop. 

 

This is a rapidly evolving public health situation, so we will continue to update you with new developments. 

We also welcome your feedback as always!

Last of all, we invite you to join us in taking a deep breath and remembering that the coming weeks and months may very well require numerous adjustments to many aspects of our lives.  Let’s all remember to go outside, appreciate the spring, spend time with our children, and look out for the wellbeing of our elders and our neighbors.

Sincerely,

The VWS Team