Home Work: Flood Brook teachers, admin, students prep for learning under Covid-19

Flood Brook staff practice social distancing on Monday as they hear from Principal Neal McIntyre about plans for closing all state schools but still providing lessons during the Covid-19 crisis. Photos by Bruce Frauman.

By Bruce Frauman
©2020 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Flood Brook School Principal Neal McIntyre on Monday, March 16 met with his teaching and administrative staffs to plan for the state-mandated closing of all schools, which started today, Wednesday, March 18. On Sunday, Gov. Phil Scott had ordered all K-12 schools closed at least until April 6 to lower exposure of students and teachers to the novel coronavirus that causes the Covid-19 illness.

None of Flood Brook’s 283 students, who are in K-8, attended school on Monday. And while Tuesday was expected to be a regular school day, following President Trump’s and the Centers for Disease Control recommendation that no gatherings of more than 10 people be held, Tuesday classes were also canceled.

McIntyre explains what is expected from teachers and other support staff during the shutdown.

Until further notice, students will not be allowed to come to school for classes, clubs, sports or music. Teachers will continue to be paid and will work from home. The school will be open for teachers — at least for now — if they need to access their classrooms. McIntyre said there is an expectation that teachers will be available during the school shutdown.

Each home room teacher will put together a packet of materials for their students to work on while they are at home. And special education teachers and the music teacher are to contribute to these packets. McIntyre said he will write a cover letter to parents and expects each classroom teacher to do so. The Telegraph learned from a parent that packets also were sent to each student via email on Monday afternoon. McIntyre said he has receive offers from the community to help distribute materials to students Tuesday and Wednesday.

Starting on Wednesday, each teacher is also expected to call the home of each student at least once a week, to talk with the parents and, if possible, to the students as well. . McIntyre said he and Assistant Principal Beth Ann Drinker will write a list of suggested questions so the information received is consistent.

McIntyre said he wants students and parents to know that the teachers are still working to help keep “brains and bodies” active.

There was some discussion of who the most vulnerable students might be and which students would struggle while home. One teacher said kids who are used to being home alone might do fine, while others might find this to be a new and troubling experience. She said many kids don’t know how to be home alone.

On Sunday, Jackie Wilson, superintendent of the Bennington-Rutland Supervisory Union, gave guidelines to principals and assistant principals for the closing, which also included feeding the students.  As of Tuesday afternoon, McIntyre told the Telegraph that he has no “firm information yet on food delivery.”

Drinker said the central office is inundated with offers to help. And McIntyre told The Telegraph, “Many individuals have offered to help deliver … Most offers are general, folks just letting us know we can call on them for help. It’s been really terrific to see the support we have in the community as we try to contend with this very unusual situation.”

A special education teacher said that Social Education in Vermont is not set up for distance learning, so that providing the service when the students are not in the school has yet to be worked out.

McIntyre said the Student Support Team, consisting of himself, Drinker, the Special Education director, and the the school nurse, mental health clinician, and guidance counselor will continue to meet at least once weekly. The goal is to “keep an eye on the neediest and most vulnerable kids and families and organizing resources.”

Once the immediate academic and food issues have been worked out, McIntyre said he will prepare for a longer term closure, including distance learning.

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