Scott addresses school closure order: 'public safety 1st'

MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) Vermont students will not return to school for the remainder of the school year following an announcement by Gov. Phil Scott. It comes as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Vermont Friday increased to 183 and the number of deaths reached 10.

Scott held a press conference Friday morning to discuss his decision to keep students at home. "I know this news is incredibly difficult. Let's face it, it's disapointing, frustrating, and just plain sad. Sad for the kids, the parents, the teachers, and all school employees and my heart goes out to each and every one of you," Scott said.

Scott says his decision was made in consultation with the health department and education agency and is necessary to keep Vermont's health care system from being overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases. He says he made the decision so early in order to provide consistency and stability so that Vermonters know what to expect.

"We find ourselves at a time with no roadmap," Scott said. "These are times that require us to think outside the box."

The education agency says it will provide technical guidance to districts on how to implement continuity of learning plans by the end of the week, specifically looking to address challenges around equitable access to learning opportunities, Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) for students with disabilities, continuation of school meals, and school attendance and school calendar requirements.

Click here to read the governor's directive.

Scott says his directive also includes the continued closure of child care facilities for nonessential workers as well.

The Vermont NEA says it supports the decision.

Students Thursday said they were mixed about the order, understanding the need to close but also missing in-person learning. "It was the last few weeks of school and to see it kind of disappear sucks," says Rhiannon Garey, a Burlington High School senior.

Both parents and students say they are trying to make it work. "We've been doing the homeschool thing," said Michelle Curley of Danville. "It has been working but I will be glad when all this is over and we can get back to normal."

"She's pretty self-sufficient," says Emily Laplant, the mother of a student. "I mean, she had like calculus and that's above my pay grade."