TRSU schools continue to plan reopening, release parent handbooks Home-schooling could remove $600,000 from GM District budget

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2020 Telegraph Publishing LLC

With two weeks left before Vermont schools are scheduled to reopen, the Two Rivers Supervisory Union has issued handbooks for parents and students on what each of its two education options will look like when Sept. 8 arrives. But as with all things Covid-19, nothing is carved in stone.

A screen shot of a recent public forum conducted on Zoom

Superintendent Lauren Fierman has been moderating a weekly Zoom forum on school reopening that has brought large numbers of parents and school staff to hear about the plans for day-to-day operations and all sorts of contingencies that could crop up.

Last week, Fierman told those in attendance that the schools were sending out a survey asking parents to tell them not only which of the options (in-person, hybrid or all virtual) they have chosen for their children, but also the schools, names and grades the children would be in so teachers and administrators could see what each classroom would look like.

According to Fierman, as of Monday Aug. 24, the overall numbers look like this:

  • Cavendish Town Elementary School — 70 percent in-person, 21 percent virtual, 9 percent home-school
  • Chester-Andover Elementary School – 76 percent in-person, 15 percent virtual, 9 percent home-school
  • Green Mountain High/Middle School – 74 percent in-person, 25 percent virtual, 1 percent home-school

Based on the approximate populations of those schools, that appears to mean that about 35 families would home-school their students. In past meetings, Fierman has told parents who are considering home-schooling to remember that the technology (laptops, tablets etc.) and other services the school system provides will not be available if they are not enrolled. She also noted that parents could take the virtual option while supplementing the online work with a home-school program. This would keep the child in touch with what will be expected of him or her when everyone can return to school.

A sizable number of students moving to home-schooling would be difficult for the school system since the state support grants that fund the schools are based on enrollment. The loss of 35 Green Mountain School District students translates in to a reduction of about $600,000 out of a $14 million budget. If the district is unable to make that up with reductions in spending – which is doubtful in the pandemic – it would have to run a deficit which would be made up in the future, with at least some of the money coming through increased taxes.

Reopening details distributed

As work on reopening plans were going on, the schools promised to provide materials for parents and students to explain what instruction would be like in the fall. These “handbooks” provide wide-ranging details for issues like busing, health screenings, classroom setups, direction of hallways, lunch, virtual Wednesdays and athletics. The elementary school handbook breaks out details for each of the four schools in the SU.

Click here for the Green Mountain High School Covid-19 Handbook

Click here for the TRSU Elementary Schools Covid-19 Handbook

In addition to the handbooks, TRSU has also published a introduction to its online only option called the Two Rivers Virtual Academy.  It speaks to the student commitment to learning, the participation of adults in online learning and the conditions necessary for success in learning online.

CDC updates guidance

With the handbooks distributed and just days to go before students come through the school door, the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta issued updates on a host of topics including planning, ventilation, food service, face coverings and those who cannot wear them, students with special needs and disabilities, strategies for creating cohorts and staggering, recognizing symptoms of Covid-19 and coping with the situation.

Whether these updates will affect anything in the handbooks remains to be seen.

The next reopening forum will be held from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 26. Click here to join the meeting.


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