Students will be back in the classroom this fall in Vermont. State officials announced Wednesday that schools will reopen for in-person instruction after the coronavirus derailed the second half of the 2020 school year.
In March, Vermont Governor Phil Scott closed all schools in the state for the remainder of the academic year. He said Wednesday that as Vermont continues to reopen the economy and tries to get life back to normal, a big part of that is getting schools open. “We fully expect schools to open this fall. Our approach will focus on the health and safety of kids, their families, as well as teachers, staff and anyone else working in schools and find ways to make the school day as normal as possible. That said, for students and teachers alike, it's going to look a little different than it did before COVID-19. But we need to get through these issues together because we know how vital it is for our kids and their development to move forward and reopen.”
The governor praised education professionals and parents for adapting to the education needs of children during the pandemic. “We anticipate some legislative changes may be needed as well, including to the school calendar, attendance policies and others. And we know some funding may be required to help make this work as well. I want to clarify that today's announcement is for our pre-K through 12 education system. But please know we're working with Vermont’s colleges and universities as well in order for them to reopen this fall too.”
State Education Secretary Dan French says planning has been ongoing for the reopening of in-person school instruction this fall. He says all districts will be required to implement basic daily health screenings. “We recognize that as much as COVID-19 has been an unprecedented public health emergency in many cases it has been an education emergency. All students and staff will have a daily health check at first point of contact with the school. Schools will be able to determine the best method to conduct this daily health check. Students who are arriving by bus will have a screening prior to boarding the bus to reduce the potential spread of the virus.”
All staff will be required to wear facemasks and students will be encouraged to wear face coverings. If outbreaks occur, Secretary French says public health staff will act to contain it and assess the impact on school operations. “As much as we are planning for in-person instruction in the fall we're also preparing to improve our ability to provide remote learning as a contingency. In anticipation of the need for reactive school closures our guidance describes several levels or steps districts will take depending on the public health circumstances in our communities. Under step one schools are closed and utilizing remote learning. Under step two schools are open for in-person instructions but implementing fairly restrictive health measures. And under step three schools are open for in-person instruction and implementing less restrictive measures.”
Reflecting on the current academic year, Governor Scott said the high school class of 2020 has endured a lot during a pivotal time in their lives. Vermont Community Foundation President and CEO Dan Smith then announced a McClure Foundation gift to all graduates. "Every member of the class of 2020 coming out of Vermont high schools will receive one free course of their choosing at the Community College of Vermont this fall. The foundation's gift will cover tuition and fees associated with any CCV course. Across the state there are young people who woke up today wondering what comes next and to those young people you've worked so hard you deserve this.”
Vermont’s school reopening guidelines will be published next week.