Today was the first day of school for elementary and high school students across Vermont. During his regular COVID-19 briefing today, Gov. Phil Scott discussed the schools’ preparation for pandemic-era classes.
Vermont schools traditionally begin in late August but Republican Governor Phil Scott delayed the start date until September 8th to give schools more time to craft pandemic plans and get physical buildings ready for any in-person classes. “Even though we are by far the safest state in the nation with the lowest number of cases and the lowest positivity rates we know there will be bumps in the road and there will be cases tied to schools. We also know how important this is for our kids. And we’re here to work with schools as we take this step forward to respond to and contain cases just as we’ve done throughout this pandemic.”
Vermont Education Secretary Dan French says the state health department has proven it can contain clusters of the virus and notes that colleges across the state have successfully opened. He says the next step is to reopen the K-12 system, which he feels is crucial to meet the social and emotional needs of students. “Reopening our schools allows us to reestablish the routines, relationships and activities that are essential to the wellbeing and healthy development of our students. All school activities and routines for the next several weeks including academics and extracurricular activities should prioritize the social and emotional needs of students.”
Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine reported that testing has been key to tracking the virus and limiting its spread. He announced the extension of a project to increase testing and results reporting. “A few months ago Walgreens joined in a pilot testing effort and now operates a drive through site in Essex Junction. And today I’m pleased to announce that Kinney Drugs has entered a partnership with the UVM Medical Center and will begin testing this week at eleven different locations around the state. I’m also pleased to announce that working together with the Agency of Digital Services we have created a new online system that facilitates registration and results reporting. This will speed up the reporting of test reports by making them available electronically for people who get tested at one of our sites.”
Governor Scott added that this new agreement is a significant addition to the state’s COVID monitoring capabilities. “As well with the colleges and universities doing their own testing and our pop-up testing that we’ve done over the last few months we’ve steadily increased our testing ability and we continue to look for other opportunities as well.”
If statewide school reopening is deemed successful, Governor Scott says the state’s next focus will be the hospitality and tourism industry.