No one-size-fits-all answer for Vermont schools

  • By Olivia Lyons, WCAX
  • July 24, 2020

RUTLAND, Vt. (WCAX) – The fall school year is quickly approaching and schools must decide how much time students will actually be spending in the classroom.

We told you Thursday that Chittenden County schools will all follow the same hybrid model. But as our Olivia Lyons learned, superintendents in other areas say that model won’t work in all of their schools. And the biggest takeaway so far is there is no one-size-fits-all answer.

Rutland City Public Schools Superintendent William Olsen wants to see more structured remote learning for high schoolers when instruction starts back up.

“We would be having a live synchronous transmission of the course,” Olsen said.

Instead of completing assignments on their own time, remote instruction would be happening live. Olsen says the administration believes high schoolers have the maturity level to handle this type of schedule.

“You could be in English class on Monday and then watching it live on Tuesday and still participating and basically be in class,” Olsen said.

Some superintendents tell me the same method of learning will not work in all of their schools. Instead, the schools in their district will pick the best method for their students.

“It’s great to have a teacher saying, this might now really work very well and we need to reconsider that and try to readjust how we are making our general plans,” Olsen said.

For younger kids, the goal is to have younger students in person every day by rearranging spaces and how staffers are placed throughout the building.

They are also allowing families to choose a completely remote method.

“Everyone is doing it their own way,” said Dave Younce, the president of the Vermont Superintendents Association. “There is no what-are-American-schools-going-to-do committee.”

Younce says he is seeing most schools across the state select some version of the hybrid model.

In the Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union, students in pre-K through second-graders will attend in person five days a week from 8 a.m. to noon, with full-time remote learning as an option.

Grades three through twelve will begin the year fully remote, allowing them to upgrade to a hybrid model if they see fit later in the school year.

“The guidance we received from the AOE makes it pretty clear that there’s a spectrum from like fully remote learning to fully in person and whatever is in between, and that hybrid model kind of falls in between,” Younce said.

Something the agency of education has not given guidance on is child care for students on remote learning days.

“We are really worried about that for the community,” Olsen said.

He says it’s an issue RCPS is trying to work out. It not only impacts parents who work full time outside the home but teachers who may live in different districts with kids in school.

Olsen told me they are still waiting on guidance to explain what a school should do if there is a positive case of COVID-19 and for a final word on fall sports.