Vermont Secretary of Education Dan French said state officials will review COVID-19 guidance for schools as the threat of the omicron variant grows.

French said the Test-to-Stay program has been a success so far, with 26,000 tests conducted last week,, the most since the program began in October.

In the meantime, schools and parents say they are feeling prepared and ready to redouble their efforts.

Moriah McCullagh, COVID response coordinator for Colchester schools, says they’ve addressed the pandemic with a “layered approach.” McCullagh said schools began the year with six weeks of surveillance testing, before shifting to Test-to-Stay.

“It has definitely been a labor intensive process,” said McCullagh. “What I do see changing after the New Year is that we are going to have a lot of students close to being fully vaccinated in that 5-12 age group.”

What that means is students with two shots will not need to participate in Test-to-Stay if they are a close contact.

French says getting vaccinated is still the best strategy and that as far as contact tracing, his agency will be reviewing the guidance. “I think this issue of speed of contagion is proved to be one of the more challenging aspects for our schools, relative to our experience with Delta,” he said.

Kathleen Kelly of Hinesburg, who has children at Williston Central School, says she’s prepared for an omicron surge. Her kids are fully vaccinated.

“I’m not more scared, I’m the same scared,” she said. “But I guess my fear for me, directly and for my family, especially now that we’re vaccinated – that was life changing to have your kid vaccinated. That changes the whole scope of daily life.”  

French says the agency will likely delay lifting the mask recommendations for schools that reach a vaccination rate of 80 percent. The recommendation was scheduled to expire January 18 but French said it might be extended.