Vermont educators, students happy to return to classrooms

Published: Sep. 1, 2021 at 2:30 PM EDT
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RUTLAND, Vt. (WCAX) - Wednesday marked the start of the new school year in the Rutland area and other parts of southern Vermont. But for many schools already underway, the surge of new positive COVID cases has forced some districts to alter plans.

Ellen Colvin’s fourth-grade classroom at Rutland Intermediate School resembles pre-pandemic days, with desks grouped together instead of separated by three feet. “We learned so much last year we were really ready to set up our classrooms and be ready for the kids,” Colvin said.

Madison Chisamore is a student in Colvin’s class. Her older sister, Alyssa, had Colvin as a teacher last year. The sisters agree wearing masks is annoying but they would rather be in person and masked up, than learning remotely. “I’m excited to go to school because I get to see my friends and I’m really excited for science,” Chisamore said.

Some schools in the state began last week and by day two were already reporting positive COVID cases. But Rutland City Public School District Superintendent Bill Olsen says he is trying to stay positive. “It’s more transmissible, but I think we were good last year about wearing masks, following safety protocols. We just tried to adhere to whatever the state told us to do, and that worked for us,” he said.

Over at Rutland High School, students are eligible for the vaccine based on their age. But regardless of the vaccination rate within the school, everyone is still required to wear a mask for at least the first 10 days, according to state guidelines.

“Even though we are starting out in masks, I think it will be really good to have everyone back and in school together,” said Mia Marsh, an RHS junior. She says being vaccinated makes her feel safer, but admits the delta variant is causing some stress. “Anyone can get it, you know, it’s apparently highly contagious and can get you really sick. So, that is kind of nerve-wracking and I obviously wouldn’t want anyone here to get that, or that to be going around here.”

In the high school’s art room, teacher Madeline Pritchard says it would be weird to not be worried about potential cases. Just like the students, she’s ready to push through this “new normal” and get back to full in-person learning. “The school is just buzzing and I just feel at ease -- which is weird. It’s like this calm excitement and I am ready to just get kids to learn,” she said.

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