By Guy Page
The State Agency of Education today announced new guidance: after Feb. 28, schools with 80% student vaccination rates should lift the universal mask mandate.
Few schools have reached the 80% threshhold, Gov. Phil Scott said. Progress will be incremental: “It won’t be the wild west out there,” he said.
The move to lifting mask mandates for highly vaxxed schools has been discussed since the beginning of the school year, but has been delayed due to outbreaks and because officials have been giving students time to get vaccinated, Agency of Education Secretary Dan French said.
Lifting mask mandates in all schools will come “at some later date,” French said at Gov. Scott’s press conference today. “We prefer to make incremental steps” because, he said:
- Unlike other states, Vermont is still exiting the Omicron surge, and
- “Schools and families need more time to prepare for this change.”
French did urge that Vermont schools immediately end steps that restrict student learning and development and do nothing to stop transmission.
For example, schools shouldn’t require students to remain silent during lunch. Neither should they require students to wear masks outdoors, French said. “None of these types of measures are necessary, and they send the wrong message that our schools are not safe from the virus,” French said.
“We want to get kids back to normal, and tamp down the anxiety that exists in schools right now,” Gov. Phil Scott added.
Masking is a “layered mitigation strategy” that can be added or deleted as necessary. If the situation changes, mask requirements can be brought back, Health Commissioner Mark Levine said.
One school Covid-19 measure – students eating lunch outdoors – has come under criticism at at least one Vermont school. Two fifth grade classes at Castleton Elementary School have been eating outdoors, sitting at least six feet apart on overturned pails, often eating in silence, for most of the school year, a concerned family member reported. Until very recently the practice has been mandatory and that their child is tired of wearing gloves while eating lunch in cold weather, the family member said.
Vermont Daily Chronicle described the complaint to School Superintendent Brooke Farrell-Olsen. She responded that outdoor eating isn’t mandatory.
“I think required is not the correct word,” Olsen said. “They have been eating outside as part of the outdoor classroom experience in general (depending on the weather) since the beginning of the year and last year….When a complaint or concern is brought forward by a parent, it is immediately addressed as it was in this case. When a parent asked that their child be given the choice daily that child was immediately given the choice as to whether or not they ate outside.”
Vermont Daily Chronicle welcomes Castleton school parent and staff input on this subject at email@example.com.
No fourth booster needed, Fauci says – Gov. Scott said that on today’s call between state governors and White House officials, advisor Anthony Fauci said he’s not convinced a fourth booster shot is needed for Covid-19. It’s still under review, he said.