Essex Westford grades pre-K to 5 to return to school full time in October

Published: Sep. 22, 2020 at 5:11 PM EDT
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ESSEX JUNCTION, Vt. (WCAX) - One Chittenden County school system will be moving many of its students back to in-person learning full-time. The Essex Westford School District will start in-person learning in October for pre-K through 5th grade.

As the school year started, questions loomed about how education would look throughout the fall. For many of the schools, online learning has been a challenge for educators and parents alike.

"The school is doing a really great job. They are doing everything they are supposed to do, but I don’t know how to teach school or anything like that, and I have three kids in school, said Mary Rodriguez, a local parent.

She was pleasantly surprised when we told her about the district’s big news Tuesday that five schools in the district would resume in-person learning.

“This is the first time hearing of it and I think that’s awesome. I think it’s awesome because you don’t want your kids to be behind,” she said.

Other parents we spoke with had mixed reactions. “I am worried that somebody or that people will end up getting sick and then the school would go to full remote,” said Essex parent Sheila Porter.

“I think it will be great,” said Eric Hoffman, an Essex parent.

Superintendent Beth Cobb says they looked at the low statewide coronavirus numbers, adequate school staffing, plus established protocols that are being followed when school is in session. She also points to new guidance for kids in 5th grade and younger

“The most recent guidance that came out pre-K through 5, the social-distancing is now 3-foot. When it came out at the beginning of the summer it was 6-foot. It’s still 6-foot grades 6 to 12,” Cobb said.

But why come back full-time? Cobb points to the importance of in-person learning. “we know that good instruction for our younger students is being fully in-person. I think we did the best -- we did a great job with hybrid -- but kids need to be in the building,” she said.

She says inside spaces were already socially- distance friendly and the kids have been respectful and responsible while at school. “We know there are anxieties and I think there were more anxieties in the summer. Then people started to get into the building and realizing that, oh this is ok, and being able to experience it,” Cobb said.

No teachers were made available to comment on the changes.

District officials say that they’ll evaluate how things will change with updated guidance for things like recess.

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