Nine school districts (at least) didn’t ask students about Thanksgiving

By Guy Page

At least nine Vermont school and supervisory union districts reportedly held in-person learning Monday and did not ask children if they were part of multi-household gatherings over the Thanksgiving vacation, as directed by State of Vermont Covid-19 guidelines. [Updated from report Monday.]

The following districts did not ask children the “Thanksgiving question,” per responses to a Vermont Daily inquiry emailed Saturday night to 37 superintendents, and media reports:

Battenkill Valley Union Supervisory District serving the Bennington County towns of Arlington and Sandgate.

Missisquoi Valley, serving the towns of Highgate and Swanton.

Grand Isle Supervisory District, serving the towns of Alburgh, Isle LaMotte, Grand Isle, North Hero, and South Hero.

Franklin Southwest, serving Fairfax, Fletcher and Georgia

Addison Northwest, serving Vergennes, Ferrisburg, and Addison

Slate Valley Unified, serving Benson, Castleton, Fair Haven, Hubbardton, and West Haven in Rutland County, and Orwell in Addison County.

Franklin Northeast, serving Bakersfield, Berkshire, Enosburg, Montgomery, Richford, and Sheldon

According to WCAX news coverage:

Mt. Anthony, serving Bennington, Pownal, Shaftesbury and Woodford

Champlain Valley, serving Charlotte, Hinesburg, St. George, Williston and Shelburne. 

Several other districts – including Rutland City – plan to go to remote learning all week. Rutland Northeast (Brandon, Chittenden, Goshen, Leicester, Mendon, Pittsford, Sudbury and Whiting) surveyed parents over the weekend, will do remote learning today, and will decide today how to proceed for the rest of the week. 

Almost every district said they were in compliance with Tuesday’s Scott administration directive, which they said gives discretion to the school district. They will ask parents “the question” as part of the daily health screening, and expect parents to keep children home for 7-14 days if the answer is yes. 

But the nine districts drew the line at asking the children. 

“Due to the many variable scenarios that a household may have, we will still not be asking our students and staff this question as part of a daily health screening. We do, however, expect that all families and staff will follow the Governor’s Executive order and the guidance from the Vermont Department of Health,” the Missisquoi Valley school district said on its Facebook page yesterday.

“The Arlington School District has elected not to ask the question on Monday,” Supt. William Bazyk was quoted in the Manchester Journal. Arlington is one of two towns in the Battenkill Valley district.

“The Governor’s order, and the subsequent guidance from the Agency of Education, potentially thrust our young children into adult conversations and decisions, which is not appropriate,” Georgia Elementary School principals Julie Conrad and Steve Emery wrote in a Nov. 25 letter to parents. “It also potentially sets up situations where being dishonest could take precedence over our working together to meet every student and family’s individual needs, and that is not a practice that is in keeping with the character we encourage in our students and each other.”

Addison Northwest staff won’t be asked either, Supt. Sheila Soule said: “Due to the many variable scenarios that a household may have, at this time we will not be asking our students and staff this question as part of the daily health screening.”

“We won’t be asking the question on Monday as part of our normal screening process,” Slate Valley Supt. Brooke Olsen-Farrell said. “This puts school staff in a terrible position and threatens to irreversibly harm our relationships with families.” The directive seemingly isn’t just about Thanksgiving and is likely to extend well beyond the holiday, she added. 

At last Friday’s press conference, Gov. Scott acknowledged the strong grassroots pushback against asking children where and how they spent Thanksgiving, and suggested it struck a “guilt nerve” or a “resistance nerve” among Vermonters.  

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