State, teachers at odds over when to start school

Published: Jul. 31, 2020 at 5:40 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 3, 2020 at 11:06 AM EDT
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RUTLAND, Vt. (WCAX) - Gov. Phil Scott is pushing back against calls from the state teachers union for delays in returning to school this fall. The Vermont NEA wants more time for teachers to prepare and connect with students before classes resume. But the state says it’s best for students to just get back to school. Our Olivia Lyons explains the disconnect.

The Vermont NEA released a four-phase plan to get kids back to school. The second phase includes educators meeting with students to assess their current academic and emotional needs. The document says this phase would continue until school districts can certify they can begin whichever learning model they have selected for their students.

State officials agree the needs of students must be met, but they say beginning the school year on September 8 is best.

"I believe it can work, our health care experts, our epidemiologists, everyone thinks we can do this... Think about the kids. Think about what their needs are and I think this will benefit them tremendously," said Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont.

The governor says kids need to be back in school through a hybrid model or full time.

Don Tinney, the president of the Vermont NEA agrees but says it’s important for teachers to meet with students in an open-air setting without masks before the start of the school year.

"So that they can meet their students and their students can get to meet and get to know a little bit their teachers without the masks," Tinney said.

The question of when those meetings between families and teachers would take place is still up in the air.

“We just need to find where that time is and where those meetings happen. That needs to be worked out on the local district level,” Tinney said.

Vt. Education Secretary Dan French agrees with Tinney, saying students have fallen behind educationally and emotionally, but it's because they have been without a routine for so long.

"The emphasis needs to be on reopening schools and getting those routines re-established. I think just the fact of getting the schools

open and getting those routines going is part of the antidote, if you will, to dealing with some of the social and emotional stress this emergency has created," French said.

Governor Scott says by extending the school start date it has already given teachers and staff the extra time to prepare families for the upcoming school year.

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