Vt. education officials provide initial guidance on reopening

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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) Vermont Governor Phil Scott Wednesday said he's committed to having students in grades pre-K to 12 return to in-person classes this fall, and education officials laid out some preliminary guidance to make sure it's done as safely as possible.

After months of learning from home and being away from friends, Vermont's public school children will be heading back to classes by summer's end.

"Our approach will focus on the health and safety of kids, their families, as well as teachers and staff, as well as others working in schools as well as other ways to make the school day seem as normal as possible," Scott said.

Students will have to have their temperatures checked before getting on the bus or entering the school. Staff will have to wear masks, but students won't. While gathering students in schools raises concerns about transmission of COVID-19, state health officials say widespread testing in Vermont is only showing a two percent rate of positive cases.

"So, that's to me very comforting that the phonomenon of suppression of the virus across the state is real," said Vt. Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine.

If there is an outbreak in a single school or a wider area, the state is working on a plan to switch back to remote learning. But the governor acknowledged that the system used this spring was inadequate and that many students still can't access high-speed broadband.
The administration is in the middle of rolling out a plan which will increase broadband capacity.

"Certainly, to work on the connectivity piece, but also to ensure that all of our students have access to high quality instructional materials online or inside of our schools," said Vt. Education Secretary Dan French.

The entire plan to get every kid back in the classroom is estimated to cost an additional $40 million.

"There's no one that wants to get back to school more than our members," said Don Tinney, president of the Vermont NEA. He says they want input from teachers, parents, and health experts before making the call to open schools. They also wish they had more time to prepare. "It is possible that we won't be ready. Are we going to make sure we have all of the cleaning supplies, are we going to make sure that all of the transportation is safe?"

There's was no indication that there will be any requirements for social distancing or staggered classes in Wednesday's announcement, but there's still more details to come in the full guidance for schools to be issued next week.

The state is also working on a plan for college students to return as well details on that are still to come.



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