G overnor Phil Scott has signed a directive officially setting Tuesday, Sept. 8 as the universal reopening date for Vermont schools.

“Schools should take this extra time to make sure systems are ready and effective, so we can deliver for our children, and build confidence in the public education system’s ability to be flexible and responsive,” said Scott. “I know none of this has been easy, and I appreciate and have faith in educators and school boards, because I know they are 100% committed to giving kids the educational opportunities and support they need.”

Originally announced on Tuesday, the directive requires all public and independent schools to open for in-person or remote instruction on Sept. 8, with an exception for schools primarily serving students with disabilities, which can restart operations prior to Sept. 8. The Secretary of Education will have oversight and authority in the implementation of the order and local school officials and governing bodies are required to consult with, and abide by, the direction of the Secretary of Education.

This start date provides schools with an additional week for staff to prepare and test the systems – both online and in-person – built over the past few months. School districts have developed reopening plans under guidance from the Agency of Education (AOE) and Vermont Department of Health, developed alongside pediatric medical professionals and education stakeholders.

Data has demonstrated younger children are less likely to spread or contract COVID-19 and studies from other countries who have reopened schools have not shown significant transmission of COVID-19 within schools. The Vermont Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics has called on school districts to prioritize in person attendance for all students preschool through grade five and students of all ages with special needs, as these groups receive the greatest benefit from in-person instruction.

These factors, in addition to Vermont’s low disease prevalence and ability to quickly contain outbreaks with effective testing and tracing, have informed data-driven strategies to promote health and safety of students, teachers and school staff, and allowed schools to open with either a hybrid or in-person model.

“What we continue to hear from public health and pediatric medical professionals is support for a return to school and in-person instruction, especially for kids 10 and under,” added Scott. “They point to Vermont’s low case counts, our proven capacity to contain clusters and outbreaks and our experience with childcare centers and summer camps, as well as studies from countries where kids are already in school. While we know we may see cases in our schools, these factors mean Vermont is in a better position to return to school than any other state.”

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