Vermont home school applications up 75%, to 1600

More parents staying home; public schools this fall to have stringent hygiene, social distancing, mask requirements for all students, staff and parents

By Guy Page

July 22, 2020 – Applications to home school Vermont children are up by an estimated 75% over this time last year, an aide to Vermont Agency of Education (AOE) Secretary Daniel French said yesterday.

“Last year by 7/15 we had about 900 applications. As of 7/15/2020, we have about 1600,” AOE Director of Communications and Legislative Affairs Ted Fisher said. (Fisher emailed Vermont Daily yesterday afternoon to correct an inaccurate estimate provided at the governor’s press conference.) 

On June 17, AOE issued Health Guidance for Vermont Schools, a 25-page document outlining stringent testing, hygiene, social distancing, and masking requirements. In particular, all students, staff and visiting parents will be required to wear masks on school buses and inside school buildings: “All staff and students are required to wear facial coverings while in the building, as well as outside where physical distancing cannot be maintained…. Adults doing drop-off and pick-up should wear facial coverings.” 

Home schooling has long been popular among parents whose educational, societal, or religious views make them wary of public schools. Now parents have three more reasons.

First, more parents will be staying home. Whether unemployed or working from home due to the pandemic, some new stay-at-homes are willing to add home study instruction to their daily “to do” list.

Second, the state’s stringent new Covid-19 guidelines may have pushed hundreds more Vermont parents to consider the home schooling option. Asking their child to wear a mask virtually all day long is something many parents simply won’t do. And of course, some parents worry the protections won’t be enough to protect their children and extended families from virus transmission.

Third, the AOE is hedging its bets on in-person schooling. A July 15 directive tells schools “it is important that each district plan for a certain amount of flexibility to shift school instruction along a continuum of options from full in-person instruction to full remote learning, including a hybrid learning approach that might include both.” Message heard by many parents: your kids may need to stay home, again, regardless. Knowing that, parents may choose to play a more active role in their education.

The AOE oversees home study. August 1 is the AOE deadline for the Minimum Course of Study (MCOS) home study application. Home study information and application can be viewed on the AOE website

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A former Vermont state senator who is an outspoken opponent of aggressively secular, socialist curriculum in the public school system is recommending concerned parents check out a website called Public School Exit

“Parents act like they have no choice, but the reality is there are lots of options,” former Sen. Mark Shepard (R-Bennington) posted on Facebook today. “The issue is not a lack of choice, but misplaced priorities. If your children are a top priority, you will not send them to be educated for 13 years in schools that operate with wrong-headed curriculum. The curriculum problems are well documented for decades now, only wilful ignorance can explain why people do not know.”

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