By Curt Peterson
Windsor Central Unified School District superintendent Sherry Sousa told the Mountain Times last week that protocols for reopening are still up in the air, presumably due to the recent upsurge in Covid cases across the country.
“The Agency of Education [AoE] and Dept. of Health will be providing us with guidance regarding our return to school in mid-August,” Sousa wrote in an email.
On Monday, July 26, the Dept. of Health website still has wording that cancels Covid requirements for schools, effective June 14. “With Vermont’s high vaccination rates and low number of Covid-19 cases, it’s safe for most Vermonters to return to the activities they did before the pandemic. [The] vast majority of Vermonters are protected from the virus, and keep the virus from spreading to others.”
Ted Fisher, director of communications and legislative affairs for the AoE, wrote, “We do not have a guidance or other information published yet. We expect to communicate more in the near future. I can’t say whether it will be guidance (binding) or recommendations, and whether it will be issued by the AoE, by the Health department, or jointly.”
Healthvermont.gov provides current Covid statistics. As of Monday, in the past 14 days there was one positive case and 18 “recent” cases in Windsor County, and three new positive cases, 28 “recent” cases in Rutland County.
School district decision-makers such as Sousa seem to be caught in the middle, as schools pose a particular conundrum for administrations, school employees and parents.
“Because a Covid-19 vaccine is not currently available for children under 12 years old, there are a large number of unvaccinated people at schools, child care and summer camps,” the DoH advises. “Masks are recommended for unvaccinated people (age 2 years and older) when inside, throughout the summer.”
Relaxed travel and gathering restrictions around the country have inspired family trips to areas where Covid is much more of a threat. Some experts warn that children may be bringing virus infection into the schools from elsewhere as a result.
The “Delta variant,” which is highly contagious, is associated with the significant uptick among unvaccinated people in other states where vacationers may have traveled.
Sousa said the district has to just wait and see what develops between now and the first day students arrive.
“Our plan is to fully return to our previous programs following the recommendations we are given by the state,” she said.