Students at the Williston Central School, pre-COVID-19
Students in Vermont’s largest school district will have the option this fall of fully remote learning or a “hybrid” model that includes two days a week of instruction in the classroom.
The decision means no students in the Champlain Valley School District will attend five days of school this fall. Superintendent Elaine Pinckney and Champlain Valley Union High School principal Adam Bunting outlined the reopening plans during a school board meeting on Tuesday night.
For students in the district’s five schools for kids in kindergarten through eighth grade — Shelburne Community School, Charlotte Central School, Hinesburg Community School, Allen Brook School and Williston Central School — Pinckney described a tentative plan under the hybrid model. One group of students would attend school on Mondays and Tuesdays, and another group would attend on Thursdays and Fridays.
When not in school, students would learn remotely. Wednesdays would be reserved for interventions for students who needed extra support, as well as for teacher planning and professional development.
A second option for K-8 students is the fully remote model, which Pinckney described as “a regionalized homeschooling opportunity for kids.” If families chose this option, students would access all learning from home, without attending in-person school. The curriculum would be the same as the hybrid model.
Pinckney also said the Champlain Valley Superintendents Association regional group — which includes district leaders from Chittenden, Franklin, Grand Isle and Addison counties — will issue a statement recommending the hybrid model for their K-12 students later this week.
On Wednesday afternoon, Colchester superintendent Amy Minor announced her district would use a hybrid model with just two days of in-school learning. Students will also have the option of fully remote learning, Minor wrote in an email to parents.
Pinckney said the plans were informed by twice-weekly meetings she’s had with other Vermont superintendents, as well as regular meetings with Education Secretary Dan French, Health Commissioner Mark Levine and the Department of Health’s director of maternal and child health, Dr. Breena Holmes. The two main considerations, Pinckney said, were the safety of kids, faculty and staff, and knowing that kids need to be in school for social interaction.
Pinckney said the district was initially hoping to bring K-4 students back to school five days a week and follow a hybrid model for middle and high school. In order to maintain the recommended six feet of social distancing between students, however, there was no way all K-4 students could be in the school building simultaneously.
“With a lot of work, with a lot of looking at, ‘What if we take all the furniture out of the classrooms? Can we socially distance at six feet? Can we manage this?’”
More details of Champlain Valley School District’s K-8 plan will be released on August 4.
CVU high school principal Bunting presented more detailed plans for what school will look like next year for its roughly 1,300 students. The plan was made with input from thousands of community members and collaboration with other high school principals, he said.
High school students will also have the option to access hybrid learning or fully remote learning. Under the hybrid model, students would be divided into two groups. Each group would go to school two days a week and engage in remote learning two days a week. On Wednesdays, students would have a shorter remote learning period.
CVU will also move to what Bunting called “4x4 semester blocks.” Students will have no more than four classes per semester and will have no free blocks during the days they are in school. In previous years, students had up to eight classes per semester.
Extra time will be given for arrival, transitions and lunch. Clubs and academic intervention will happen after school, and a late bus will be provided to take those students home.
COVID-19 has spurred schools to come up with creative solutions, said Bunting. “Because everything is new, you start looking at your schools with fresh eyes, in a way you hadn’t before,” he said at the meeting. For example, conversations with two hearing-impaired students this summer spurred the school to buy face shields and clear masks for faculty members.
“We are working from imperfect options, and we are choosing the best of those imperfect options,” said Pinckney, quoting the district’s director of learning and innovation, Jeff Evans. “The perfect option is: Our kids are back in our schools full time. We need a vaccine for that, I think.”
Correction, July 23, 2020: A previous version of this story misidentified the number of schools in the Champlain Valley School District.