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Local pediatrician pushes for students to stay in the classroom

Published: Nov. 19, 2020 at 8:58 AM EST
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SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - As COVID-19 cases spike in our region, some say schools should shut down, while others are trying to keep them open.

Dr. Leah Costello, a pediatrician at Timberlane Pediatrics in South Burlington, says that after months of the pandemic, what we know is that kids are not the driving force of the spread of COVID-19 and instead it is the responsibility of adults to slow the spread to keep schools open.

“We are seeing cases in schools. We are not seeing cases transmitted in schools,” Costello said. “Places where there are strict guidelines for spacing and masking and cleaning, that is not the place where COVID is transmitted.”

Costello says there isn’t data to support closing schools, but that keeping them open is too valuable to student development, both social and educational.

“Kids are our priority. We need to keep the schools open for our children. In-person education is so essential for all children. Some kids really just don’t learn well over the computer and really need one-on-one support.” she said.

In her opinion, the community needs to do its part.

“Take a role in that and protect our teachers and staff and administration so that they can be at work and they can take care of these kids,” she said.

Costello says adults need to change their behavior to stop the spread of infection and the guidelines in place in schools have been working.

“It’s been the goal to keep our schools in operation as much as we possibly could,” Barre Unified Union School District Superintendent David Wells said.

He says they were dealing with COVID-19 cases individually as they came up. First, the decision to quarantine single people, then whole programs, and finally, he closed the district. Wells says in working with the health department, they eventually reached a point where, in accordance with quarantine guidelines, they would have had roughly 30 staff members unavailable.

“We reached the situation where we would not have been able to operate the school,” he said.

Wells says remote learning through Thanksgiving break gives students some consistency. He also says no guidelines have been changed surrounding in-person learning, and they plan to bring students back on Nov. 30. But Wells, like Dr. Costello, is asking the Barre community to do their part.

“The actions of the whole community and the whole state can impact a school district as it has ours,” he said.

Some other schools that have temporarily switched to learning remotely include two kindergarten classes at Rutland Northwest Primary school, Two Rivers Supervisory Union in Ludlow, schools in Franklin County, New York, and Plattsburgh High School.

Vermont education experts have said moving to a statewide, all remote learning model until after Thanksgiving break is not necessary, but they will continue to monitor coronavirus trends.

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