Governor orders delayed start for Vermont schools

Published: Jul. 28, 2020 at 8:11 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 28, 2020 at 6:07 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - It looks like Vermont students will go back to school after Labor Day. Gov. Phil Scott says the two-week delay will give districts more time to prepare for the health and educational needs of students and teachers. Our Olivia Lyons has more on the governor's executive order and reaction.

Under the governor's order coming out later this week, students are not to go back to school until at least September 8.

"We want schools to take the time to get this right so students can hit the ground running," said Scott, R-Vermont.

The governor is issuing an executive order later this week stating schools will reopen September 8. This gives districts more time to plan for reopening, including health and safety protocols and figuring out how they are going to deliver education.

The governor and Vt. Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said most states are not in the position to look at reopening schools like Vermont. But they reiterated their belief that kids are less likely to get sick and transmit the virus.

Dr. Rebecca Bell, a pediatrician and specialist in critical care who is president of the Vermont American Academy of Pediatrics, says students need to be back in school.

"Schools are a lot of things to a lot of people, schools are where our children are educated but also where they receive nutrition, developmental support, health support and community connection. Kids are not doing OK without those things," Bell said.

In a statement released by the Vermont NEA, it says the announcement "is a good first step in ensuring Vermont schools are safe for students, educators, parents, and communities."

Don Tinney, the union's president, agrees with this decision. When speaking with him before the announcement, he said the state needs to hit the pause button.

"We need to stop to have some time to figure out how we're going to do this. We're not ready yet to say we're going to open schools at the end of August," Tinney said.

Most schools are planning a combination of in-person classes and remote learning. But at Adeline White's school, fourth-graders are beginning the school year completely remotely. Her mom, Bethany, agrees with delaying the start.

“To me, it makes more sense to give them more time to try to get staffing and just make sure they are doing what they can do,” said Bethany White of Pittsford.

The governor says the core principle is finding safe ways to provide education.

While some superintendents have voiced that they wanted more guidance from the state, Governor Scott says a singular plan would not work for all schools.

“We also know there is not a one-size-fits-all plan for our hundreds of schools because each are a little bit different,” Scott said. “As well, due to our state-school structure, we must also respect the local decision-making process.”

The health commissioner says there will be cases of COVID-19 and even outbreaks in schools, but he says he’s confident the state has the protocols in place to handle those situations.

As of Tuesday, Vermont health officials reported 1,405 coronavirus cases in the state and 56 deaths. A total of 91,861 tests have been conducted, 1,040 travelers are being monitored, 5,086 have completed monitoring and 1,194 have recovered.

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