Vt. NEA calls for phased-in approach to starting school

Published: Jul. 30, 2020 at 5:57 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Some Vermont educators say they want the state to use a different strategy for reopening schools which might push some start dates past the September 8 deadline set by the governor. Our Christina Guessferd breaks down the proposal.

"We can't flip the switch and have everybody come back to school," said Don Tinney, the president of the Vermont chapter of the National Education Association.

Rather than flipping the switch on September 8, the deadline set by Gov. Phil Scott for when schools can start student instruction for the fall semester, the Vermont NEA suggests turning the dimmer up slowly.

"There's an enormous amount of planning to do," Tinney said.

Planning Tinney says could push the fall semester back a few days.

The 13,000-person union released its four-phase plan on Thursday.

Phase one is giving teachers and staff time to prepare learning plans that must be finished by September 8.

In phase two, teachers and staff meet with families to discuss the physical and mental needs of their students.

Phase three is the start of student instruction: remote, hybrid and in-person.

The NEA says schools shouldn’t start until the first two phases are complete no matter how long it takes.

Phase four calls for a continual assessment of how learning is going through the school year, making adjustments as needed.

Tinney argues phase two is one of the most important.

"I would say imperative that we take the time to allow families to get to know their school's educators before they return," he said.

The NEA also suggests schools must prove to the Agency of Education they are following health and safety guidelines per the CDC before bringing students back through the building's doors.

"We are taking what the guidelines are from the Department of Health and Agency of Education and highlighting some of the issues that really do need to be addressed thoroughly," Tinney said.

Vermont Agency of Education Secretary Dan French responded to the proposal in a statement saying he believes the phased-in approach is unwarranted. It reads, in part, “Delaying the reopening in the manner suggested would deprive our students, including our most vulnerable students, of valuable instruction and other school activities necessary for their healthy development.”

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