Vermont schools consider continuity of learning during COVID-19

Published: Apr. 15, 2020 at 5:56 PM EDT
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Schools had to submit their Continuity of Learning plans earlier this week. The Vermont Agency of Education is reviewing those plans and giving feedback. Our Olivia Lyons spoke with many supervisory unions to see how their plans differ.

Each supervisory union is responsible for submitting their schools' plans for the rest of this school year. But many have differing ideas when it comes to grading their students and what to do if some students fall behind.

"Students, if they're participating and actively working on assignments, it will be a pass and if there is a lack of attendance or engaging in the learning, then it will be an incomplete," said Sarah Merrill, the principal at Arlington Memorial High School.

Merrill says her leadership team is focused on equity and will not assess students based on privilege and resources.

Arlington is part of the Battenkill Valley Supervisory Union. The union's summer classes typically begin July 1. But this year, Superintendent William Bazyk says they're planning a start back camp in the second week of August instead, just for students who receive incompletes.

"Have our elementary school students come back who might have regressed and get two weeks of academics and it would be more of a fun-based camp with enrichment activities. And then the high school students who chose to not participate in classes now, who get incompletes, will then be required to come back to get credit for those couple of weeks," Bazyk said.

Merrill says seniors are not exempt. If they don't pass, they might not graduate.

"I don't think children should be on a pass-fail due to this whole quarantine," said Emily Silva of Rutland.

In Rutland, families we spoke with want to see some accountability to make sure students are learning and ready for the next grade.

"Giving them a test at the beginning of the school year next year to see where they're at and base them off that would be the best idea... if they test at a higher ranking, put them in a harder class and if kids need a little more assistance put them all together so they're all at the same level," Silva said.

"I would say pass-fail because if they're not putting the work in, then why should they pass? That's why I'm home working with my kids right now," said Melissa Welch of Rutland.

I did an informal survey to see what different districts are doing. A handful got back to me.

The Addison Central School District is not using pass or incomplete but they might devote the first four weeks of next school year to revisiting what they should have learned this year.

The Essex-Westford School District is approaching incompletes on an individual basis.

The Dresden School District serves Norwich, Vermont, and Hanover, New Hampshire. They tell me they are working on credit recovery options. They will assess overall student participation and outcomes to determine program details.

And the Montpelier-Roxbury School District is tracking incompletes and will decide how to address them later.

Educators remind parents that teachers and staff are doing their best during these challenging times. As Principal Merill said, there's an art and a science to teaching and right now, they're using more art.

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