State Agency of Education releases guidelines for Covid-19 public school closures
By Guy Page
March 10, 2020 – Today, Middlebury College announced it will send students home on spring break early this Friday, and will conduct all classes by remote learning for the rest of the semester. (For details see Vermont Daily Chronicle post.)
Yesterday, the University of Vermont Emergency Management office released its second statement encouraging faculty and staff to “begin planning for a potential shift to remote instruction.” The statement said the UVM Center for Teaching and Learning offers a “teaching continuity website,” remote learning website direction and instruction, and hours of operation during the spring break.
Also, a day after schools in Williston and two Windham County towns were closed for a day for corona-virus related cleaning, the Vermont Agency of Education issued guidelines for decision-making on future school closings.
A school closing and dismissal directive sent by the Vermont Agency of Education to all school districts describes three levels of school closure and dismissal:
• Selective closure or dismissal is used when all or most students in the school are at higher risk for complications once infected. For example, a school for medically-fragile children, or for pregnant students may close based on the local situation while other schools in the community may remain open.
• Reactive closure or dismissal is used when many students and staff are sick and are not attending school, or many students and staff are arriving at school sick and are being sent home.
• Preemptive closure or dismissal is the type being considered early in this COVID-19 response. This type of closure is used in a community to decrease the spread of infection before many students and staff get sick. This decision is guided by the Department of Health and based on information about the spread of COVID-19 in the region.
“We’re not at that point where we think they (pre-emptive closures) are necessary,” Vermont Agency of Education Secretary Dan French said. “That could be coming at some point in the future, and we’re planning how to do that now.”
At the Vermont State House today, committee chairs were instructed by House and Senate leaders to wrap up legislation as promptly as possible, in the event that activity at the State House is limited or curtailed. Legislative leaders are trying to determine what level of Covid-19 spread would “trigger” decisions to change business-as-usual in the Legislature.
Also, Vermont House Health Care Committee Chair Bill Lippert (D-Hinesburg) said state and federal funds will cover all testing and treatment for Covid-19 not covered by insurance. Vermonters need not be concerned about making out-of-pocket payments, he said.
Individuals who have Covid-19 but refuse to self-quarantine can be required to remain in quarantine by state officials, Agency of Human Services Secretary Mike Smith told lawmakers.
Photo: Poster on inside of side door at Vermont State House.