Gov. Scott, It’s Not Too Late to Avert School Reopening Chaos

Shifting guidance, no statewide coordination add to confusion and anxiety for students, parents, educators

MONTPELIER – After weeks of ignoring a call for a coordinated, statewide set of safety requirements for all Vermont schools, Gov. Phil Scott today added to the chaos by reversing course on social distancing guidelines for young students and suggesting that there is some acceptable level of infection before he would consider reversing course on his push to open schools.

“We are increasingly frustrated with the inconsistent and seemingly changing ‘guidance’ from the administration,” said Don Tinney, a high-school English teacher who serves as the elected president of Vermont-NEA, the state’s largest union. “Instead of joining us in an orderly, phased-in, statewide approach, he has chosen to allow districts to make critical decisions on their own. Let me be clear: When it comes to the health and safety of students, school employees, and communities, there can be no compromise.”

While the governor’s decision last month to delay the start of the school year until Sept. 8 was a good first step, he and his administration have yet to articulate a clear set of requirements that must be met before we can welcome students and school employees back into buildings, Tinney said.

“COVID-19 has no respect for school district boundaries, let alone state borders,” Tinney said. “We would like nothing more than to return to school to be with students and our colleagues. But we also want everyone to be alive and well.”

During his press conference earlier today, the governor was asked what level of infection in a school would be acceptable; he said he hadn’t decided yet. Also during the press conference, Education Secretary Dan French announced that he was reversing course on social distancing guidelines for young children from six to three feet.

“It is absolutely urgent that we do the hard work, together with on-the-ground school employees, so we get it right,” Tinney said. “If there’s one place where we must be clear and consistent, it’s with the health of Vermont kids.”

Tinney continues to urge the governor to work collaboratively on a phased-in, statewide approach to the new school year. You can read the union’s plan here.

“We know that this is a challenging time for all Vermonters, indeed for everyone on the planet,” Tinney said. “To the governor, we say it’s not too late to get this right. Please join us and let us work together to ensure our precious children, our dedicated school employees, and our communities remain safe.”

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