Schools to open in fall with safety measures; outbreak at 74

Associated Press

Vermont is able to safely open its schools to in-person instruction in the fall, with safety measures and guidelines that will be published next week, Education Secretary Dan French announced Wednesday.
"We recognize that as much as COVID-19 has been an unprecedented public health emergency, in many cases it has been an education emergency," he said.
Among the safety measures, all students and staff will have a daily health check, including a temperature screening, when they get to school, he said. Staff will be required to wear facial coverings and students will be encouraged to do so when appropriate, French said. Disinfection and hygiene protocols will also be included in the guidance, he said.
If a school or schools need to close due to an outbreak, the state is planning to improve its remote learning.
French, the Department of Health and stakeholders have been working on the guidance to make sure schools reopen in a safe manner, Gov. Phil Scott said.
"We need to get through these issues together because we know how vital it is for our kids and their development to move forward and reopen," he said.
Some funding and legislative changes may be required, Scott said.
The Vermont NEA, the state's largest union, said teachers want to be back in classrooms but said it takes a tremendous amount of work to make sure schools are safe for in-person instruction and that teachers and parents should have a lead role in hashing out those details.
"We understand the economic and political pressure to reopen our schools, but we have to make sure the decision is made with the best, most up-to-date public health science," said Don Tinney, president of the 13,000-member union and a high school English teacher.
In other coronavirus-related developments:
The number of coronavirus cases linked to an outbreak in Winooski has grown to 74, Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said Wednesday.
About 80% of the cases are in Winooski, and much of the rest are in Burlington, he said. Only one in five of the people reported symptoms and the median age of those infected continues to be "very low" at 20, he said. There were still no reports or deaths or hospitalizations related to the outbreak, he said.
"We've had tremendous, tremendous adherence to isolation and quarantine protocols by the population that's affected," he said.
Statewide, Vermont reported 11 new cases on Wednesday for a total of 1,095. The total number of deaths from COVID-19 remained at 55 for a second week in a row.
A charitable organization is giving every member of the Vermont high school class of 2020 one free course at the Community College of Vermont this fall, said Dan Smith, president of the Community Foundation of Vermont.
The J. Warren and Lois McClure Foundation is providing the gift. Students may pick the course.
"We hope it sets you on the path of launching a career of becoming a nurse, flying planes, becoming a doctor, building websites, building buildings, making things, taking care of people, or becoming governor," Smith said. "It is all wide open if you take this next step."