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Vermont-NEA grades statewide reopening readiness poorly

Published: Sep. 3, 2020 at 6:32 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 3, 2020 at 7:00 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The Vermont National Education Association graded Vermont Schools with a D-plus for their reopening readiness. It’s blaming the Scott Administration for not giving out statewide guidance, but the governor disagrees.

“Let’s just hope this is not a grand experiment on 80,000 students and their families,” said Darren Allen, the communications director for the Vermont-NEA.

The Vermont teachers union has graded Vermont schools with a D-plus for overall reopening readiness. The grade was determined through an assessment of local union presidents, nurses and educational staff in all districts but a few. The survey covers areas such as health and safety, testing and tracking, adequate staffing, ventilation, contingency plans and statewide guidance. None of the overarching categories were graded higher than a C. The highest grade for a specific question was an A-minus because 85% of survey-takers say their district has Personal Protection Equipment and distancing requirements in place.

Allen said, “Some districts are more prepared than others. Some districts have robust safety protocols, while others don’t even have adequate supplies of the personal protection equipment. No student, parents or school employee should have to put their safety at risk.”

The union would not identify which schools are so-called failing and will not say those schools should not open due to safety reasons. It admits Governor Scott was correct when extending the start date by two weeks, but blames issues within schools on Scott for not creating what they call a collaborative statewide approach to reopening schools.

“Some of the criticism has been that we haven’t given enough guidance to the schools, that we’re leaving it all up to them and I would have to say that we have taken a lot of steps in providing guidance,” said Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont.

The state is confident in the readiness to bring students back to school for in-person learning and has provided flexibility within the guidance. At the August 14 press conference, Governor Scott addressed criticism from the Vermont-NEA.

Scott said, “We’ve given a lot and just as a visual here, this is our guidance, I mean you can see, it’s fairly substantial. So it’s not as though we’ve taken a hands-off approach.”

In a statement sent to WCAX News, Scott’s administration said, “The Governor also has a different assessment of the work of school administrators, teachers and support staff, believing that local administrators and educators — who know their kids, families, buildings and communities best — are rising to the extraordinary challenge in this moment of service for all of us.”

The statement continued with: “We appreciate the VT-NEA’s perspective that they believe some districts could be more prepared. It sounds like they have a plan to address specific issues with local school boards behind the scenes. To my knowledge, they have not shared specific instances of unpreparedness with us. And to be clear, the State’s guidance is a regulatory document under the Governor’s emergency powers. The health requirements of schools outlined in the guidance must be implemented to ensure health and safety of students, teachers, staff and the community at large. They are not optional recommendations. If someone feels a school is out of compliance with this guidance, they should contact the Agency of Education or the Department of Health.”

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