Vermont districts work to finalize back-to-school plans

Published: Aug. 25, 2020 at 6:53 PM EDT
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RUTLAND, Vt. (WCAX) - The state says most schools have decided the safest approach is to open with a hybrid of in-person and remote learning. Most are making final preparations, with teachers returning to classrooms this week. Our Olivia Lyons looks at whether schools are ready.

Both the governor and Vermont Education Secretary Dan French are confident the state's school districts can make this unusual school year work. French highlighted the Rutland City schools as an example of a district that got the planning right.

Hallways of schools are quiet now, but in just two weeks students will return to the classrooms.

In the meantime, districts and unions are making final changes to their back-to-school plans.

Critics have questioned whether it is safe for students, teachers and staffers to return to school.

Gov. Phil Scott's administration continues to tell Vermonters it is the right time for in-person learning.

"This is incredibly challenging work, but it's demonstrated by the work of Rutland City. It can ultimately yield a very responsive solution and one that can be nimble enough to adapt to changing circumstances, French said.

In the Rutland City Public Schools, students in kindergarten through ninth grade will attend school in-person five days a week. Grades 10, 11 and 12 will attend every other day. On their remote days, they will follow the same schedule and attend class through video conferencing.

A fully remote option was also given to families and specific teachers have been assigned to these students.

Rutland City Public Schools Superintendent William Olsen says the district has been working on this plan since the beginning of June.

"It's a credit to a large group of people who worked on this. And then even within, we had some subcommittees and buildings that worked on these plans, too. But, in reality, I think we are really just following the state's model. We haven't really done anything that different than what the state has suggested," Olsen said.

French noted that Rutland City may have had a simpler task because it's a single community district. Multitown districts or multidistrict supervisory unions likely faced greater planning challenges. Still, French applauds Rutland City for its outreach to the community.

"Rutland City's clear and proactive communication efforts are a good example of how local school districts are supporting their communities," French said.

Olsen emphasizes how important is it for the greater Rutland community to do their best in staying healthy.

"If our community follow health guidelines and we're keeping students who are sick or suspected of being sick out of the building, that should help us keep on going for as many weeks as possible," Olsen said.

Olsen says they had a meeting Tuesday and will have another follow-up meeting next week. But their model is pretty much set. They are now looking at any loose ends that still need resolving.

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