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More Vt. schools revisiting learning models; teachers' union remains wary

Published: Oct. 9, 2020 at 6:47 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont is now one month into the school year and districts are reevaluating the learning model they selected at the end of the summer. Meanwhile, the union representing Vermont teachers remains wary about sudden changes.

Governor Phil Scott Friday said more schools are looking at bringing their students back to school for in-person learning, something his administration has pushed for if done safely.

“They planned well and now are feeling more comfortable operating their schools in these conditions,” said Vt. Education Secretary Dan French.

Burlington elementary schools and others in Chittenden County are making the switch, bringing students in-person four days a week. And The Mill River Unified Union School District, one of the few districts to begin the year completely remote, is switching to in-person learning five-days a week for their younger students and a hybrid schedule for grades 7 to 12.

“We need to revisit the plans. We need to look at this process very carefully. Many of our educators are working harder than they have ever worked before,” said Don Tinney, president of the Vermont-NEA.

The union was highly critical of the state’s planning process to bring students back to school. Tinney says the hybrid model is too stressful for teachers and students and that it’s important changes are made. “The alternating schedules and all are designed because of physical distancing and that is incredibly important, but we can’t all of a sudden flip a switch and have every student in the classroom. What we do need to figure out is, are there ways to make the approach to this hybrid model sustainable?” he said.

Secretary French said revisions to the health and safety guidelines are being made. One issue being addressed is expanding social-distancing guidelines in pre-K to grade five, to include grade 6. He also said that even if there is a vaccine, schools must keep up these precautions for the remainder of the school year. “It’s important that we maximize opportunities for in-person instruction now in the conditions that are very positive to do so,” he said.

The state is beginning a monthly data collection to look at school attendance model trends statewide and some of those numbers should be ready by next week.

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