On Wednesday, June 17, the Vermont Agency of Education (AOE) released its first of many “Strong and Healthy Start” documents full of health and safety guidelines for school administrators to implement when opening schools this fall.
Residents of the Mad River Valley and beyond can expect to see these guidelines implemented in all seven schools in the Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD).
The guidelines state that schools can open for in-person instruction this fall, provided that they take enhanced physical distancing measures and open only for children who live in the local geographic area. Depending on the state’s coronavirus case count, schools may be subject to return to remote learning or to restrict attendance to those from limited transmission areas.
When conducting in-person learning, all schools will be required to run daily health checks on staff and students. A health check consists of taking temperatures and asking students and staff if they feel any symptoms of sickness prior to entering the building or, in the case of bus riders, prior to boarding the bus. On the school bus, students will have assigned seats.
During the school day, all staff and students will be required to wear facial coverings both inside and outside in situations where physical distancing cannot be maintained. Students will be asked to wash or disinfect their hands upon arriving to school, before and after eating, before and after using the bathroom, and before switching rooms. Staff will be asked to disinfect frequently-touched surfaces three times a day. The full list of guidelines in the 25-page packet can be found on the AOE website (education.vermont.gov).
When asked about her plans to implement these guidelines at the seven schools in the district, Superintendent Brigid Nease said that her and her team are “working to unpack the specific requirements, create a work plan with a checklist, divide the tasks, order supplies and materials, and establish teams.” Nease also reported that the administrative team has a tentative plan to create five HUUSD teams comprised of administrators and staff to serve as school reopening leaders in each building. Moreover, Nease stated that an active HUEA/HUUSD union advisory will meet at least monthly.