Editorial: Safety of students top concern when re-opening schools


Superintendent, Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union

RNeSU schools have been working and planning toward the re-opening of schools. We put together a task force that includes teachers, administrators, counselors, facilities, transportation, special services and school nursing. Some details are known from the state mandate. We know, for example, that all students and staff are required to wear masks, that a health screening of all students and staff must be taken daily at the first point of contact (bus stop or school), that we must create an isolation room in each school for a sick child or adult as they await going home, that we must create classrooms that allow for physical distancing and fewer students, and that our cleaning regimen and hand washing routines must be amplified.

Knowing this information and working through the Vermont Safety and Health Guidance on Re-opening Schools provided by the Agency of Education is quite different from implementation. We recognize there is quite a bit of anxiety about returning to school and a sense of loss that normal rites of passage cannot be honored, such as Step Up Day and closure of last year’s classes. We recognize that there are some parents who want school to fully open and others who do not want to send their children to school and prefer that we provide remote learning opportunities. As of this writing, fall sports is not yet known and we are awaiting state guidance on how to handle the fall season.

Our teachers participated in professional development in June about how to do online teaching. Our curriculum committees are working this summer on clarifying grade level standards to ensure ease if we need to move from in person to remote overnight. Elementary and High School Task Forces are working on how to bring students back into the building in a hybrid model of both in person and remote learning and how to offer remote learning to the students who cannot return. 

Our goal is to open schools safely and get students back into classrooms, while also providing a remote learning option for those who cannot return. We also need to be able to quickly move to remote briefly or for longer periods throughout the year as the science of the virus demands. We anticipate rolling out these plans by the end of July so parents have time to make their own plans before school begins.

Please know that with safety of the students, the staff and even the community as our first priority, we will be following the state guidance and working with the Vermont Department of Health in all decisions that we make.

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