Vt. Parents React to School Dismissals Aimed at Slowing Spread of COVID-19

Gov. Phil Scott called the step "just plain sad," but said it is critical to public health to suspend in-person learning for the remainder of the academic year

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Vermont parents and educators are preparing for an even longer period of at-home learning, after Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont, extended school dismissals through the end of the academic year.

The move is aimed at further slowing the spread of COVID-19.

Scott called his own decision "just plain sad," but said he considers it necessary for public health.

"Because the sobering reality is, before too long, each of us will know someone who has lost their life from this virus," Scott said. "That's why we must come together and support each other to get through this."

The order to call off in-person learning through the end of the academic year extends a temporary school dismissal that was already in effect.

Scott directed districts to immediately start working on plans to continue remote learning and to provide child care services to parents who are on the front lines of the COVID-19 response—such as nurses and EMTs.

The governor said he hopes end-of-year activities like traditional graduations can happen, but noted he will not make that call until he knows such gatherings would be safe.

The Vermont Department of Health announced Friday that a tenth person in the state with COVID-19 had died from the respiratory disease.

Positive test results numbered 184 as of Friday, the department added.

With Vermont already under a "stay home, stay safe" order—except for essential workers, trips outdoors to get exercise, and errands to pick up needed items like groceries and medications—the school closures give another challenge to parents to adapt to.

"I think we can all say this is the weirdest thing that we've all experienced, in the history of at least me being alive," dad Henry Hudson said Friday while taking a walk in Colchester with his 3-year-old daughter.

"I never really signed up to home school, so I'm getting used to it, you know?" said South Burlington mom Jennifer Clark, enjoying a picnic lunch Friday with her elementary-aged son. "But I do get to spend more time with him, and if this is going to help things get back to normal quicker, then I'm all for it, yeah."

Burlington mom Ema Stupar said a career misfortune for her has made it a bit easier to adapt to childcare and home learning needs.

"I don't work at the moment—I lost my job," Stupar said. "I work at a restaurant. I'm home, so I have time, but I can imagine how it is for people who still have to work."

At the Chamberlin School in South Burlington, principal Holly Rouelle will be making learning packets available for parents to pick up and complete with their students at home.

Bagged lunches have also been available for those kids who need them, signs around Chamberlin read.

"Our number one message is, 'Be safe, take care of yourselves,'" Rouelle said. "Both physically and mentally."

Chamberlin teachers will keep connecting with kids in a range of ways online, Rouelle pointed out.

However, those educators are well aware the next couple months just can't match the normal classroom experience for elementary schoolers.

"It's sad," Rouelle told NECN. "I don't think there's anyone in our community who doesn't feel the loss of not having the school doors open."

Despite that, Rouelle said she wants stressed parents to know their local educators are still available to them as resources and supports.

The principal added that she hopes parents can stay positive while their kids are home riding out the storm of coronavirus.

Dad Erik Alling seems to have done just that. NECN met him in Colchester while he was on a bike ride with his child in tow

"I'm fortunate enough to have some time to spend with my daughter," Alling said. "It's a challenge, but it's a fun one."

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