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Derby school goes remote due to COVID

Published: Sep. 16, 2021 at 3:44 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 17, 2021 at 6:51 AM EDT
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DERBY, Vt. (WCAX) - Upwards of 470 students are learning remotely because of a COVID-19 outbreak in the Northeast Kingdom.

Derby Elementary School on its website says it began remote classes Thursday and it will continue through all of next week.

In the past week, there have been nine reported cases of COVID-19 in the district. The plan is for students to go back on September 27th.

A few classes at Derby Elementary have already had to quarantine this year. With the spike in cases this week, the district’s superintendent says it’s best to be ahead of it.

“I regret it completely. If we were able to have internet access, I would continue to homeschool her,” said Desiree Allen, the parent of a Derby third-grader. “Now, they’re sending home school paperwork,= so she can just do paper, but she’s missing out on the students and actual learning from the actual teacher.”

Allen, like many other parents, agrees that going remote is a good call, but says it’s still frustrating.. “We definitely want the children’s health to be the number one thing here,” said Jenna Letourneau, another third-grade parent. “Education is very important and I feel really bad because I don’t feel like my son is getting the best education with me teaching him.”

Since the start of the school year, there have been 17 confirmed cases at Derby Elementary.

North Country Supervisory Union Superintendent John Castle said the decision to go remote was a tough one. “We really felt we were at a tipping point with the number of students that would be out as close contacts and it was really starting to present staffing problems,” Castle explained. He said they’ve been trying their best to prevent this. “We are implementing many mitigation efforts. Certainly mask-wearing in the schools, with some social distancing. Certainly not the extent we were in last year with pods and groups.”

Despite the challenges, parents are still appreciative of the school community. “I just want to give a big thank you to teachers,” said Letourneau. “I’m not a teacher and they do a lot. I can’t imagine doing it throughout the day.

Castle says there has not been any evidence of in-school transmission, but there’s too many cases to be sure.

If the students hadn’t switched to remote learning, Castle said at least 50% of them would have been quarantined as close contacts anyway.

Last week the Department of Health reported a total of 159 active cases in Vermont schools.

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