Can Vermont schools meet strict new CDC rules to reopen?

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By Olivia Lyons | May 21, 2020  

RUTLAND, Vt. (WCAX) There are new federal guidelines for schools to follow when they reopen. Our Olivia Lyons is digging into the list and what it means for Vermont schools.

School will look a lot different if and when it starts in the fall.

Take a look at this list of some of the CDC’s new guidelines for reopening schools:

-Anyone over the age of 2 must wear a mask.

-No sharing items like books, toys, devices or other supplies.

-Desks should be 6 feet apart and facing the same direction. If not possible, a sneeze guard should be installed.

-Playgrounds and cafeterias will be closed.

-Students must bring their own lunch

-Hallways should be traveled in only one direction.

-Students stay in the same classroom all day with the same teacher.

-Stagger the arrival of students.

-On school buses, one student per seat and skip rows between riders.

-Extensive cleaning and daily health and temperature checks, if possible.

It’s a lengthy list, and to some people WCAX News spoke with, it doesn’t seem realistic.

However, the president of the Vermont Superintendents Association says she’s happy the information was released because now they can start planning and preparing for the next school year.

The new CDC guidance for reopening schools will be challenging for school administrators.

“We’re up for the challenge. We’re going to do the best we can,” said Jeanne Collins, the president of the Vermont Superintendents Association.

Collins says one of the first concerns is the availability of cleaning supplies and masks for students and staffers.

“Having a full school, everybody there at the same time it would be very difficult to follow those guidelines,” Collins said.

Keeping students focused in the same classroom for six to seven hours a day doesn’t seem possible to Collins. Another possibility is a hybrid option allowing some students to be in school, while others are at home. But this raises issues among the staff.

“Our teachers and staff are also parents,” Collins noted. “So do we incorporate a child care element into this and is that even possible?”

Catlyn Earle has three kids aged 11, 7 and 5, who find online learning difficult. She doesn’t think the new guidelines are reasonable.

Catlyn Earle: I just want school back the way it was. Makes it a lot harder, especially for working parents.
Reporter Olivia Lyons: Would you be able to continue e-learning if they do that in the fall?
Catlyn Earle: I would have to be out of work permanently and that’s kind of physically impossible with the economy.

Transportation poses another challenge. Collins says on a bus that can normally hold 70 students, only 15 or 17 would be allowed to ride.

“That’s a very sobering number to look at,” she said. “And between kids, it’s not as simple as constantly running routes because we would need to clean between groups of kids.”

Does this mean each school will have to purchase more school buses? It has some Vermonters wondering how this will be possible financially.

“It’s going to be a struggle financially and I think it’s going to be something that we have to plan for ahead of time,” said Raegina Wescott of Reading.

WCAX News reached out to Vt. Education Secretary Dan French to discuss what the state is doing to prepare. We had not yet heard back when this story was published.

Click here for the entire list of CDC guidelines.

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