New guidance released for Vermont schools

Published: Apr. 8, 2021 at 12:10 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 8, 2021 at 12:28 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - After months of waiting, Vermont schools, students, and parents Thursday received the state’s blueprint for getting more students back to full-time instruction for the remainder of the school year.

The guidance, which takes effect immediately, outlines three main goals: End the school year strong and safely; Increase in-person learning to the greatest extent possible; And begin education recovery planning and activities. Schools officials we spoke with say this is a step in the right direction.

“It’s encouraging news,” said Greg Schillinger, the principal at Rutland High School. He says for his school, the change with the biggest effect is the new three-foot distancing guidance and allowing more students in a classroom. It also gets rid of a restriction on mixing groups of students. That can happen as long as the school keeps attendance records. “We need to again take the time to be thoughtful and to plan our specific school day carefully, so it’s hard to say right now.”

“One of the most exciting changes, believe it or not, is the temperature check,” said Battenkill Valley Supervisory Union Superintendent Bill Bazyk. Under the new guidance, students’ temperatures are taken at home before school, no longer making it schools’ responsibility. Bazyk says the current policy creates a bottleneck and wasn’t ideal for staff during cold weather. “It’s a real sense of normalcy just being able to walk into the building in the morning.”

Bazyk is also looking forward to the new travel guidance that allows students back at school with a negative test, three days after returning. “Probably quite a few of our students are going to go away over the April break and they don’t have to quarantine for the week coming back,” he said.

In addition, cafeterias, libraries, and gymnasiums can be used as long as everyone wears face coverings and follows physical distancing requirements. “I don’t think we’re going to go to full eating in the cafeteria because that is still six feet apart in the guidance,” Bazyk said.

At Rutland High School, part of their cafeteria is being used as a prep station for meals being delivered to other schools as well as a science room and chorus room. Students will be allowed to sit within three feet of each other in a classroom, where they will most likely continue to eat meals. But in the cafeteria they must remain six feet apart, creating a problem. “That’s one of the details that we will need to do some good problem solving on. We don’t have those answers just yet,” Schillinger said.

Adults within the school are still to keep six feet from each other and students as much as possible. The public may use school grounds if they’re wearing a mask and physically distancing. But there are still no outside visitors permitted inside the building unless authorized by the school or district.

Click here to see the guidance -- “A Strong and Healthy Year: Safety and Health Guidance for Vermont Schools, Spring 2021.”

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