Education

School opening postponed two weeks; mask guidelines in place

Vermont home school advocate offers encouragement, information, Facebook chat page

by Guy Page

July 29, 2020 – Yesterday, Gov. Phil Scott announced the first day of school will be postponed two weeks until September 8.

The two week delay will give school districts more time to prepare staff and teachers to educate students according to Covid-19 guidelines, Gov. Scott said at his press conference. These guidelines include social distancing, required wearing of masks for all students and adults inside school buildings, wearing masks outdoors when social distancing is not possible, and the daily taking of temperatures.

Public schools also face significant staffing challenges, as teachers and other employees grapple with health risks and finding childcare for their own children, Harwood Unified Union School District Superintendent Brigid Nease said Saturday.

The new start date and the pandemic measures aren’t the only changes in the works. Some districts are considering a hybrid in-person/remote learning school week on at least a temporary basis, Nease said. Also, Essex parents reportedly are concerned that class offerings will look remarkable different – including the possible loss of Advanced Placement classes.

Gov. Scott said yesterday he’d welcome discussion about Education Fund spending on alternative models to the traditional public school, including home and private schooling.

“There’s been resistance to that in the Legislature,” Scott said at his press conference yesterday. “I would be more than happy to have that conversation with the Legislature in January. There are lots of alternatives to explore….how we can do better with the dollars we have.”

Not surprisingly, home schooling applications to the Vermont Agency of Education (AOE) by July 15 were up 75% over the same time last year, AOE spokesperson Ted Fisher said last week.

Health risks and the perception of declining value of public schools due to new guidelines and a hybrid school week are among reasons parents are considering the home schooling alternative. To help parents interested in learning about how to home school, longtime Vermont home schooling advocate Retta Dunlap of Woodbury (mountainfoldvt@gmail.com) provides this information and connections:

“To anyone who is enrolling a child in home study, more commonly known as homeschooling: You got this! And there are plenty out there who are willing to help. Here are a few ways to connect:

“Vermont has one state wide homeschooling website and that is http://www.vhen.org. There is a lot of useful information there including the forms to use for enrolling in home study.

“The largest state wide Facebook group is: Homeschooling Vermont Chat Group. And then there are a lot of local Facebook homeschooling groups in Vermont. I do recommend that you get in touch with the homeschooling community as they can simplify the enrolling process for you. They are welcoming and willing to help you, including answering any questions you have!

“I tell all homeschoolers that the home study law is structured in such a way that:  You, the parents, are telling the state that you are enrolling your child in home study. You are not asking permission nor are you seeking approval. And that you are willing to submit what is required by law to enroll a child in home study.

“Have courage. Have confidence. And enjoy this time with your kids. It is hard to describe, and even if you do this for only a year or two, you will gain insight you never thought possible.”

Photo credit: Homeschooling Vermont Chat Group Facebook page

Categories: Education

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