Some New Hampshire schools are throwing in the remote-learning towel. Will Vermont follow?

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Vermont schools are still on schedule to finish the rest of the academic year, despite some schools in neighboring states ending earlier due to the stressors of remote learning.

Vermont law requires all school districts to operate for at least 175 days of student attendance, and as of now, no school districts have petitioned to end their school year earlier, according to the state’s Agency of Education. 

But in states like New Hampshire, some school districts have opted to reduce or cancel their April break in order to end their school year earlier.

“We heard from parents and caregivers who have found the remote learning structure a welcome part of the day, but we have also heard that the structure has caused additional stress,” said Lisa Witte, superintendent of Monandnock Regional School District in New Hampshire, in a news release in late April.

The district’s school board voted to end their school year on May 29.

A timeline for remote learning

In the weeks following the March 18 announcement that all Vermont schools would close, districts scrambled to provide meals, laptops, and timely information to students and their families.

This period, from March 18 to April 13, marked the state’s transition to “Continuity of Learning”, ensuring all school districts could provide equal education services and support to students so that learning could continue in spite of the stay home restrictions. During this time, 

For more:Vermont students will remotely learn for the rest of school year

Among the four essential elements school districts are required to comply with during remote learning is ensuring accessibility to all students.

About 23% of the state, or 70,000 homes and businesses, don’t have access to high-speed internet services, according to the Vermont Department of Public Safety. Whether families have internet access or not, however, should not deter districts from providing other alternatives for students to learn.

“You still need to provide the same education,” said Ted Fisher, director of communications and legislative affairs for the state’s Agency of Education.

Through a partnership with Vermont Virtual Learning Cooperative, the agency has been trying to provide additional support to teachers and schools navigating remote learning.

How can a school district close earlier?

“Traditionally, approved independent schools have not sought calendar waivers from the State Board,” say Dan French, secretary of the Agency of Education, in a news release in early April.

In order to end their school year early, a school district would have to petition the State Board of Education for a waiver, explaining why they can’t meet minimum state requirements for class time.

French has already used the State Board’s waiver powers during the pandemic: any COVID-19 related school closures prior to the Governor’s order to end in-person instruction on March 18, will not need to be made up.

For example, Williston schools closed for two days in early March due to COVID-19 concerns.Those days will be waive

This is part of the memo they released “After April 13, 2020, it is the Agency’s expectation that most students will participate in remote learning each day, and no further make-up days will be necessary.”

The Agency of Education is still keeping options open. By the end of the school year, French can decide whether any additional statewide waivers or make-up days will be necessary.

“This form of learning is unprecedented for our state, and we need to reserve the option to hold additional student instruction days, if it is in the best interest of the state’s education system,” said French.

Contact Ethan Bakuli at (802) 556-1804 or ebakuli@freepressmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @BakuliEthan.

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