MONTPELIER — School districts across the state should plan for a return to full-time in-person instruction this fall, according to guidance released Friday by the Agency of Education.
“We believe it’s unlikely any specific mitigation measures will be needed in the fall,” Secretary of Education Dan French said during Friday’s press conference updating the public on the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. “… Our emphasis will be on the return to normal operations.”
Here are five things to know about public education in Vermont ahead of the summer and fall:
1. Public health measures greatly reduced
According to the guidance, there will not be any distancing requirements for students or staff in the fall. French said the AOE will review any potential masking guidance over the summer.
“If any or some virus mitigation measures are necessary, they are likely to be nominal and not specific to schools,” the guidance states.
2. Attendance measures return to normal
Under the guidance, schools will follow the normal regulatory framework for determining attendance. These rules were altered some under the pandemic to allow remote learning, but French said the focus will be full-time in-person instruction, with remote learning used more for the personal needs of individual students rather than entire classes.
3. Snow day policy returns to normal
Under the pandemic guidelines, inclement weather days were counted as “attendance” days if remote learning was implemented. However, according to the guidance, this will be rescinded and snow days will need to be made up later in the year if necessary.
4. More remote learning flexibility
While the focus will be on in-person instruction, the new guidance acknowledges how the pandemic “advanced the use of technology in our education system.” Under the pandemic guidance, the Vermont Virtual Learning Cooperative expanded its capacity to offer more remote learning opportunities, and the new guidance encourages schools and districts to join VTVLC.
“Student-centered decision-making for all students will be critical in district recovery planning efforts,” the guidance states, adding that districts “should not ignore data” regarding the effectiveness of remote learning for some students.
5. End of year guidance
A memo issued jointly by the AOE and Department of Health on Friday states that if the state of emergency in Vermont ends, much of the pandemic guidance will no longer be in force. However, the Health Department still recommends that schools follow prevention strategies outlined in the pandemic guidance until the remainder of the school year.