Covid-19 updates, Featured

Scott orders Vermont schools to close

By Anne Galloway/VTDigger

Gov. Phil Scott has announced a plan for the dismissal of all schools in Vermont and cancellation of all school related activities no later than Wednesday. The decision was made amid fears that keeping schools open could help to spread the coronavirus.

The directive will last until April 6, according to a statement from the governor’s office, Sunday, March 15.

Scott’s Continuity of Education Plan directs local districts to continue to offer food and special needs services for children, provide options for childcare for health workers and other essential workers, and ensure children continue to be educated during the initial response and possibly for an extended period.

Students are not required to attend school on Monday or Tuesday. Teachers and staff, however, must report to work to help with the orderly rollout of the cancellation of classes.

Mark Levine, commissioner of the Health Department, has hailed the move as “another important step to help keep us ahead of the curve, in terms of preventing and reducing the spread of COVID-19.”

The decision, he said, was based on “the best scientific evidence available.”

Scott said while the cancellation was essential to support the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, he still wants to ensure that children are “safe, nourished, and still learning even as the traditional structure of school is disrupted.”

The governor has asked superintendents and school districts to continue to provide services to children, including take home academic assignments. Communities should be prepared, he said, for the disruption to go beyond the April 6 deadline.

Districts must develop Continuity of Education and Service Plans before they close schools at the end of business Tuesday. Those plans must include: meals for children as needed, services for those with disabilities and special needs, childcare for first-responders and health care workers, trackable academic work, and a remote learning plan for longer term cancellation of classes.

Pressure had been building to close schools across the state since last week as more superintendents individually chose to shutter local districts in response to COVID-19 outbreaks, teachers raised alarms, and parents launched an online petition demanding that the governor take action.

Closing K-12 schools statewide impacts roughly 18,000 school employees and about 80,000 schoolchildren across the state.

Education Secretary Dan French is scheduled to speak with lawmakers this evening at 6 p.m. The Burlington School District, which has one of the largest groups of students in the state, is holding a hearing at 5 p.m. to discuss the situation there.

More than 20 states have already decided to temporarily close schools, while many cities and districts making the decision on their own.

Alabama, Alaska, Delaware, Florida, Kentucky, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin are all closing schools, according to USA Today.

School closures so far have impacted at least 25.8 million students. Education Week is keeping a running tally and map of school closures nationwide.

Photo by Mike Dougherty/VTDigger

Gov. Phil Scott announced a state of emergency in response to the coronavirus on Friday in Montpelier.

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