School start date delayed two weeks

Governor urges fully reopening schools

By Jason Starr

Observer staff

Gov. Phil Scott on Tuesday pushed back the start of school statewide to Sept. 8 and encouraged school districts to fully reopen their buildings to students, especially at the youngest grades. 

For the Champlain Valley School District (CVSD), the new start date is two weeks later than its original Aug. 26 start plan. 

The announcement came as a surprise to CVSD administrators, who discussed the ramifications of the change during a meeting Tuesday. 

“We are still trying to figure it out,” CVSD Communications Director Bonnie Birdsall said Tuesday. “There are a lot of pieces, and we’re trying to explore what it impacts.

Administrators are not sure whether school will be extended two weeks in June, or whether the Agency of Education will allow for fewer than the traditional 175 days of school.

“The idea is that this will give us more time to plan so we make sure things will start out right,” Birdsall said. 

Last week, the district announced plans for a hybrid school schedule, with only half of a school building’s students allowed for in-person instruction at a time. Students will be at school two days per week, with three days of learning from home — although a fully remote option will also be offered.

At a press conference Tuesday, Gov. Scott, along with Health Commissioner Mark Levine, Education Commissioner Dan French and Rebecca Bell, president of Vermont’s chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, urged school districts to return to fully in-person programs, especially at the elementary school level (preschool through grade 5).

“In Vermont, this is the right time to open schools,” said Levine. “We have achieved a stage of viral suppression that will allow us to open schools comfortably.”

For schools that are opening with hybrid models — which were designed this summer in response to the coronavirus pandemic — the extra two weeks will allow time to make sure their plans are adequate to address the needs of all students. 

“School districts, school boards, teachers and administrators should take this extra time to make sure they, and their hybrid and online solutions, are ready and effective so we can deliver for our children and build confidence in the public education system’s ability to be flexible and responsive — because faith in the system is key to returning to in-person instruction,” Scott said.