Vermont students won't be returning to school buildings, already closed to slow the spread of the new coronavirus, for the rest of the school year, Gov. Phil Scott announced Thursday.
He ordered schools to extend dismissals from April 6, the extent of his initial order, to the end of the 2019-20 school year. Education will continue via remote learning, with school districts required to come up with a plan for it by April 13.
“The education of our students and the bonding and learning experiences they have at schools are tremendously important, so I fully appreciate the impact and difficulty of this decision,” Scott said in a statement. “I also recognize it will be challenging for some schools to implement remote learning through the end of the year. But I’m encouraged by the creativity I’ve seen from administrators, educators and parents already, which is why I know, together, they can rise to the occasion.”
When Scott announced the initial, three closure last week, he acknowledged that a longer closure might be required.
Nine people in Vermont have died after being diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, and 158 people have tested positive for it overall, the Vermont Department of Health said Thursday.
The department and the Vermont Agency of Education consulted on the decision to extend school closures through the end of the school year, Scott's office said. The Agency of Education's upcoming guidance on continuity of learning plans will address school meals and students with disabilities.
The head of the state's teachers union, the Vermont-National Education Association, said that while teachers were "disappointed and saddened" the end of in-person classes, they understand the health requirements.
"There are many questions that need to be tackled as we prepare for the orderly closure of our schools, and rest assured there is no fiercer advocate for students – and educators – than the members of Vermont-NEA," union chief Don Tinney said in a statement that called for food to remain available for students and teachers not to miss paychecks.