Can summer school give the state a lesson for fall classes?

Published: Jul. 1, 2020 at 6:33 PM EDT
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After a semester of remote learning, most Vermont schools opted not to hold summer school programs this year as they prep for a return to the classroom in the fall. But at least one school sees summer classes as a good dress rehearsal for the coming school year. Our Olivia Lyons reports.

At the beginning of the summer, the state released guidance for schools planning summer classes.

John F. Kennedy Elementary in Winooski is one school taking part. Allie Monahan, the summer school coordinator, says having in-person classes over the summer is helping them prepare for a full reopening in the fall.

"I feel fortunate that in Winooski we will be able to go through that process, see what works and doesn't, and be able to fine-tune and even be ready for the fall," Monahan said.

During Gov. Phil Scott's press conference on Wednesday, Vermont Education Secretary Dan French said the state does not have a way to make sure the guidance is being met for summer schools.

"For the larger number of programs out there, we're not supervising their implementation necessarily," French said.

Many superintendents I spoke with said their schools are either not taking part in summer education this year or they are continuing to use an online, remote format.

At JFK Elementary, summer school includes physical distancing, temperature checks done by a nurse, staggering student drop-offs and outdoor classes in groups of 15 or fewer, including staff members.

Monahan says she thinks the state should collect input from schools running these summer programs for the fall school year guidance.

Sen. Tim Ashe, P/D-Senate President Pro Tem, thinks there's more the state should do. He's calling for the creation of a School Reopening Task Force made up of teachers, superintendents, principals and board members to strategize for the upcoming school year.

The governor says since his administration announced the reopening of schools weeks ago, they have been working with experts from various areas to create the guidance. Scott says this is a politically charged agenda.

"I thought it was unfortunate that two days after the Legislature had adjourned that they called for more oversight," said Scott, R-Vermont.

As a teacher, Monahan says the state has the experts with knowledge they don't have on the district level, but all groups need to work together.

"Having both of those task forces running concurrently is definitely going to be important to the success of the physical and social distancing that we will have in the fall," she said.