Some Burlington tech students to return to in-person classes next week

Published: Sep. 30, 2020 at 6:14 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Burlington High School officials say some technical center students will be back in alternative classrooms by next week after concerns over PCB contamination prompted them to shutter the high school earlier this month and return to remote-learning.

The district says it’s nailed down alternate workspaces for four BTC courses -- criminal justice, aviation, health introduction, and human services and those students will start in-person classes again Monday, although officials are not yet saying where.

Burlington Technical Center director Jason Gingold Wednesday called the move a great first step, saying his students can only learn so much through the computer screen. “As a tech center our motto is to learn by doing, and we’re a very hands-on-focused educational philosophy,” he said.

Gingold says 292 students from 14 high schools in and around Chittenden County rely on that hands-on learning. BTC students only received one day of in-person instruction before the entire campus closed due to high PCB levels. As part of the original hybrid model, two groups of students were to meet at the technical center twice a week.

“We really want to get back to that hands-on learning. That’s what we do best, and it’s just what’s fair to students,” Gingold said.

While BTC students wait for the district to sign off on alternate workspaces, some teachers are sending kids home with kits that contain hands-on projects and others are conducting courses in public locations. “It’s piecemeal because this took us by surprise,” Gingold said.

Still, Gingold says it’s imperative technical students learn critical career skills in a classroom. “Whether it’s learning vital signs from a mannequin or from a fellow peer or teacher, or changing a tire, or learning how to weld, or anything at our aviation program,” he said. “We can teach them theory and skills through the internet and remote learning, but it’s really that hands-on education that separates technical education students.”

Gingold says his team is still developing a uniform, organized teaching plan if some students can’t get back in any kind of classroom for months. But district leaders say they may have more alternate workspaces nailed down by next week.

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