School will be in session, but how is still up in the air

close up of girl writingThe first day of school for Champlain Valley School District (CVSD) students is on the calendar as Wednesday August 26, but what the next school year looks like is still unknown. Parents currently have just shy of six weeks to figure out childcare and schooling options for the next academic year; state agencies and local school districts are currently working through options and sent a newsletter and survey home to parents last week.

CVSD Superintendent Elaine Pinckney wrote a letter to families in a newsletter emailed on Tuesday; in it, she wrote, “Our primary goal is to get as many students as possible participating in in-person instruction. In order to comply with social distancing guidelines and ensure the safety of all our students, it may be necessary to provide a hybrid learning experience for our students–one in which students are participating in in-school learning some days each week and remote learning on other days each week. Another important goal is to offer both in-person and remote learning opportunities. Teachers and administrators are currently working to develop rigorous, engaging, relevant curricula for either in- person, hybrid, or remote learning.”

As schools across the country announce learning plans for the upcoming school year, most include options to accommodate various levels of family need, whether those are socio-economic, academic, work related, or health related while also balancing school staff health concerns.

Students began remote learning in March of this year after school buildings were closed due to COVID-19. Pinckney said this could be an option for the fall, and wrote, “Our ability to provide a remote learning option is contingent upon the Agency of Education or the State Board of Education giving us permission for this to happen. We are strongly advocating to have this option available for our families.”

Other, non-public schools in the area are presenting education options as well. The Lake Champlain Waldorf School recently announced plans to hold all classes outdoors for the entire school year and is spending the remainder of the summer building outdoor structures to accommodate their kindergarten-through-high school students. The Vermont Day School in Shelburne also announced that they are planning in-person instruction but are limiting classes to 10 students per grade. Official state-approved home schooling is also an option for Vermont families, though the application deadline is August 1 and there is a possibility that CVSD will not have announced its plan by then.

“I know that you would like to know now exactly what school will look like in the fall. So would we, but we’re not at a point yet to make conclusive decisions,” Pinckney wrote in her email. The parent survey included with the school district email aims to gauge what parents need and want for their families and students; she said that the school district is concurrently working on multiple plans for the 2020/21 school year and that the survey results will influence the district’s decision making along with the many other factors they must consider.