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New Burlington School Superintendent Outlines Plans For District

Burlington School District Superintendent Tom Flanagan
Pat Bradley/WAMC
Burlington School District Superintendent Tom Flanagan

The new superintendent of the Burlington, Vermont School District laid out his “100 Day Entry Plan” this morning. It includes his initial plan for the district and pandemic reopening for this fall.
Tom Flanagan officially began as the superintendent of the Burlington school district on July 1st but has been working on his 100 Day Entry Plan with the school board, local officials, teachers and the community since he was hired. He says it centers on his core approach to education and is based on three concepts.  “The equity plan is framed around three priorities: equity, engagement and deep learning.  This priority around equity is to number one make sure that all students are valued and challenged and build on their strengths. So we’ve created an Office for Equity.  The second is engagement. We’re going to have a series of advisory groups that can help advise me on policies and practices moving forward, an advisory group for students, parents and staff.  We’ve already started meeting regularly with our unions. And the last priority is deep learning. We have to make sure our educators are empowered and investing in their professional growth.”

The 100 Day Plan also incorporates the Burlington School District’s work to re-open this fall.  A task force led by the school district’s finance and operations manager with a number of working groups is developing a reopening plan for the fall semester.  Flanagan said more than 1,200 responses to a survey sent to families are providing feedback about what’s expected.  “The feedback from the survey was that most people would prefer to see an A-day, B-day. So a student would go to school on a Monday and a Wednesday and then the other student on Tuesday and Thursday. So we’re going to kind of test that and see what that looks like, see how the community feels about that and I think that’s probably the direction we’re moving. But we still want to hear more feedback and we still have to develop that plan.”

Flanagan reports that not all parents are comfortable sending their children back for in-person instruction. “About 15 percent of the families that responded to the survey told us that they are not comfortable sending their children back to school. What we’ve learned through this is that children really need school. And it’s not easy to do for all students virtually and we really need to get them back as soon as we can and as safely as we can.”

Flanagan expects a number of physical changes within the schools to assure the health and security of students.  “Number one is entry. We have to make sure that students are safe as they enter. Number two is pods, making sure that we don’t have a lot of students and a lot of adults engaging with folks that they’re not engaging with regularly. So keeping the number of students to a manageable number. School becomes in some ways much more like a one-room schoolhouse where you’re in your classroom a lot.  Students will wear masks and teachers will wear masks. Those are a couple of the big things. Students will be eating in class and a lot of cleaning, a lot of work that we need to do on the back end.”

The Burlington School District plans to open on August 26th.