I know a lot of you are anxious, worried, and confused by the many ways the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting us, our families, our schools, our communities, and our students. I share that anxiety, and wanted to take a moment to let you know what we’re doing as the crisis unfolds.
Last night, Gov. Phil Scott declared a state of emergency, limiting visits to nursing homes and other facilities, eliminating unnecessary state travel, and banning gatherings of more than 250 people. He did not call for the immediate closure of public schools but did make it clear that medical experts will continue to monitor the situation. We applaud the thorough, non-political way in which the state is evaluating how to respond to this rapidly developing pandemic.
That said, we have heard from many of you about your concerns over the governor’s decision to not include imminent school closures in his emergency declaration.
In that vein, I want you to know that I and others at Vermont-NEA are in active discussions with the secretary of education, superintendents, and others as decisions on next steps for the state’s public schools are being made. In those discussions, we are making three things clear:
- Any decision on how best to contain the further spread of COVID-19 must put the health and safety of students, educators, and parents first. Nothing is more important than public health and safety.
- When schools are closed, we must ensure that children who rely on school meals will still have access to fresh, nutritious food.
- School employees – especially our education support professionals – must not suffer financial hardship and lost paychecks.
I can tell you that the team of experts making recommendations in this crisis are being thoughtful and guided by their understanding of science, medicine, and best-practices in disease containment. We will continue to engage in talks with the state’s team, and we have urged state officials to update the public on the status of Vermont’s schools as soon as they can.
In the meantime, please take care of yourselves and one another. Together, we will get through this.