Some Vermont schools will open for summer programs while others will delay

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This very strange school year is coming to an end. And while there are still plenty of questions about what Vermont schools will look like in September, some are moving forward with in-person programs this summer.

When children and staff return to several school buildings later this month, it will be the first test on how to navigate the new COVID-19 safety and health guidelines.

Normally early June is hectic, festive and exciting at Newport City Elementary School.

“Teachers would try to complete assessments and progress reports, get their rooms together and get ready for the summer,” Principal Elaine Collins said as she stood in an empty hallway at the school. “There would be a lot of conversations and relationships going on, and that just isn’t happening in our current reality.”

The current reality is that all schools in Vermont are closed. But Collins says his district’s decision to do in-person programs this summer will be good for his staff and for the students.

“The biggest benefit of having a summer program is that relationship, that there are kids out there who really need to be able to reconnect with adults and their peers,” Collins said. “This is the biggest advantage.”

Credit Howard Weiss-Tisman / VPR

Newport City Elementary School principal Elaine Collins said one of the benefits of reopening for a summer program is reconnecting with the kids.

Normally, just about every school in the state offers some sort of summer program for its students.

For children with learning disabilities, it’s a way to stay on track during the summer, and for low-income families, it helps provide child care when school is out.

The Education Agency recently released its guidelines for summer programming during the pandemic, and the state said it was possible to reopen school buildings.

Beth Chambers runs the summer program at Newport City Elementary, and she says the school is ready to welcome children. Things will certainly be different.

“All adults will wear face coverings,” she said. “No more than two to three children per table. We will encourage masks inside. We’re going to wash our hands once or twice an hour, probably, you know, ten to fifteen times a day. It’s a lot of hand washing. But, from what I understand, one of the most important parts of all of this is making a habit of washing your hands, not touching your face, and distance from each other.

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A preview of what to expect?

The Education Agency released the summer guidelines just weeks before summer programs start, and the regulations the state has set for the summer aren’t necessarily the ones schools will need to follow in September. Next week, the Education Agency plans to release ground rules for the next school year.

But Chambers says having kids here this summer will help Newport City Elementary in what will sure be a tough start to the school year.

“We might have a head start on some schools that don’t have any programs during the summer and will run blind until the fall,” Chambers said. “And so I really hope we can use our summer programs to help inform the fall.”

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Vermont Education Secretary Dan French said it was important for schools to “use” any time possible this summer to prepare for the fall reopening.

Some schools continue distance learning, but many school districts do not anticipate the return of students until September.

French said he understands that many districts do not have the capacity to take charge of planning at the moment, or finances, but hopes some districts remain open to the idea and perhaps come up with a shortened program. later in the summer.

“I think it’s a bit premature to decide not to run the programs as usual,” French said. “But there are plenty of opportunities to organize something different that could be more responsive to the needs of the community and help you prepare for the fall as well.”


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