If and when local students return to the classroom for 100% in-person learning has not yet been determined. When the state announced Vermont Forward – Roadmap to Reopening this week, it excluded schools from the rubric which provides metrics for businesses, gatherings and travel that are based on attendance and how many people are vaccinated.

Each school district will determine how its students will be educated for the balance of this school year. Locally, elementary school students have had in-person learning four days a week since fall. Older students have been attending two days a week with the same cohort.

With many pushing for a return to full in-person learning as soon as possible now that the CDC has changed physical distancing guidelines from 6 feet to 3 feet, it seems prudent to ask whether it makes sense to change systems that are now working this late in the school year.

Teachers, students and staff in our middle and high schools have it dialed in with one cohort in the buildings on Mondays and Tuesdays, the other cohort in the buildings on Thursdays and Fridays and everyone learning remotely on Wednesdays (remote Wednesdays are also part of the K-6 protocols).

It is absolutely understandable that high school seniors might want to close out the year with their classmates, but is it logistically possible to return middle and high school students to the classrooms full time without disrupting the systems that are in place and are working? Hybrid and remote learning is preferred by some students who have adapted and created work, school and home life schedules around it.

There’s no doubt that middle and high school students have been deeply impacted socially and emotionally by this hybrid learning. And perhaps a return to fully in-person will be logistically possible without being so jarring that learning is disrupted.

What may work for older students might not work for younger students, including freshmen who would be joined together with a large cohort of students they’ve never met. 

The educational toll of the pandemic is not yet known and the path back to full in-person learning must be carefully charted as school districts work on their summer plans and recovery plans.