Working families on edge about what return to school looks like

Published: Jul. 10, 2020 at 6:55 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 20, 2020 at 2:21 PM EDT
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Many Vermont families are waiting to find out what school will look like for children in the fall and how much remote learning will be involved. With only a month and-a-half till classes begin, some working families are feeling anxious.

"When they were starting to talk about closing schools, I got a little freaked out," said Melanie Racette, a dental hygienist. Her husband is a self-employed carpenter. Neither of them can work from their Williston home. Racette says this spring, her last day of work before COVID-19 closed down her job, coincided with her nine-year-old daughter Lola's last day of in-person schooling.

"I was able to stay home with her for those three months, but at the same time I was stressed out and frustrated thinking what if work calls me back and school's not done yet," Racette said.

Now it's mid-July and that stress and frustration is still there because she doesn't know what plan they need to make for the fall. She doesn't know whether Lola will be at school, home, or both. "We need guidance," Racette said.

Lola goes to Williston Central School. The sign outside the school says see you again in the fall, but Racette says the school told her they don't actually know quite what that's going to mean yet because the state hasn't put out all its guidance. Governor Phil Scott Friday said education officials should have more information by next week so that schools and families can start making their plans. He said that districts and employers will need to be as flexible as possible to help families.

"There's going to have to be contingency plans put into place," Scott said. "This isn't going to be easy. It isn't going to be perfect. But by-and- large I think we're going to have to consider collectively what's best for the kids, what's best for them this fall? And I think getting back to school for in-person instruction is incredibly important."

Racette says she wants both school staff and Lola to be safe, but she also wants the state to make sure that whatever guidance they come up with includes supports working families.

"Children have always gone to school, and it's allowed a lot of people to have careers. And that's what we depend on is careers, and children being at school," Racette said.

She’s says if Lola needs to do her schooling from home, both she and her husband will have to adjust their work.