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Vermont Governor Delays School Openings To September 8th

School bus
Pat Bradley/WAMC

During Vermont’s regular COVID-19 update today, Governor Phil Scott announced that he will delay the opening of schools to September 8th so that school districts have time to implement fall plans.
Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine noted that on Friday there were 13 new COVID-19 cases and an average of two cases in the past three days in the state.  He says those low numbers provide confidence that schools can open.  “Based on the trends that we’ve been seeing for some time now I continue to believe that we’ve come to appoint in our response to this virus that allows us to bring our children back to school in a carefully considered, measured and safe way.”

Levine cited data that young children are less likely to become infected or transmit SARS-type diseases like COVID-19.  Pediatrician and critical care specialist Dr. Rebecca Bell said the Vermont Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics is asking schools to prioritize in-person attendance of all pre-school through grade 5 students and all students with special needs.  “Childrens’ physiology responds uniquely to disease. They are less likely to contract the virus, less likely to become seriously ill and less likely to transmit the virus than adults or older adolescents. That combined with the fact that this is the same population that struggles the most with remote learning makes prioritizing in-person education for our youngest students a sensible goal here in Vermont.”

The state Agency of Education issued guidance on June 17th for school districts to follow to formulate plans for opening schools in the fall.  Republican Governor Phil Scott says because the state’s educational structure is based on local control, state guidance encourages three options.  “First full remote learning like what we did in the spring but hopefully much better. Second a hybrid model offering a mix of in-person instruction and remote learning or third full in-person learning.”

Scott says so far most districts are adopting a hybrid model with students on campus only a few days a week. He will delay the statewide opening date by about two weeks to help schools complete preparations.  “While Vermont’s data and science and the expert advice would allow for more in-person instruction than many schools are currently planning I understand the need for caution and the need for school staff, parents and children to ease into this. And we want schools to take the time to get this right. With that in mind I’ll issue an Executive Order later this week setting Tuesday September 8th as a universal start date for students. Fortunately Vermont is in a much better position than most other states. In fact we’re probably in a better position than any other state in the country right now to return to school.”  

Many schools in Vermont traditionally open during the last week of August.

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