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Slate Valley students dinged for crossing into COVID ‘red zone’

Published: Sep. 23, 2020 at 5:34 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 23, 2020 at 6:11 PM EDT
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FAIR HAVEN, Vt. (WCAX) - A group of students in southern Vermont is now under quarantine after a weekend of fun where school officials say they clearly weren’t supposed to be.

“Parents are understandably upset and frustrated because it’s just very hard to make logical sense of it,” said Slate Valley Unified School District Superintendent Brooke Olsen-Farrell.

Essex County, New York, is classified as a red zone on Vermont’s COVID travel map. Brook Olsen-Farrell sent an email to families that if they visited counties not approved by Vermont for travel, students can not return to school until they finish quarantining. But many families in the district disregarded her warning, with groups going apple picking, attending sporting events, and dance lessons in Essex, Washington, Warren, and Saratoga Counties. Now, students and two staff members from five of the six schools in the district are quarantining.

“What further complicates the matter is we have many, many employees that live in those counties in New York state, myself included. And so we’re allowed to come to work, so it’s just very, very confusing,” Olsen-Farrell said.

Fair Haven and Castleton residents declined to say how they felt about the students being required to quarantine. It’s common for cars to be crossing the New York/Vermont border throughout the day.

“You have to have the line somewhere, so when the line impacts people when they are on the other side of it, it’s natural to say, well, can’t the line... but of course we can’t do that for everybody or else the policy would lose its integrity,” said Vt. Dept. of Financial Regulation Commissioner Michael Pieciak.

The Slate Valley Unified School District is not offering remote learning for its schools in Rutland and Addison Counties, but since those quarantining students would miss up to two weeks of school, the district is figuring out how to offer remote schoolwork. “I’ve been in conversation with the Agency of Education and they have been helpful in trying to figure out and address this issue, and hopefully we’re expecting to hear back from them shortly,” Olsen-Farrell said.

In the meantime, everyone is supposed to remain on quarantine for 14-days. They can get out of it after seven days if they take a COVID test and it comes back negative.

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