By MIKE DONOGHUE
Islander Staff Writer
GRAND ISLE -- The Grand Isle Supervisory Union is working on plans for students in the five island towns to return to learning in the fall – both in classrooms and remotely.
Informational meetings for parents are planned for tonight (Wednesday) and one week later, Wednesday, July 29. Both community forums start at 6 p.m. and are available through Google Meets, which allow for people to call in. Access information is available by contacting the supervisory union by phone or on its website. Emails also went to parents.
Superintendent Michael J. Clark said school officials on the planning committee have made the safety of students, faculty, staff and communities the highest priority.
Clark said he also understands the importance of family balance: parents working, students going to school and also to have child care services on other days is a major concern for families.
“As an organization, we are beginning to explore some possibilities of partnering with licensed childcare providers to provide some form of childcare in a ‘commercial’ setting,” Clark said in an email to The Islander.
The Islander has been peppered with emails and calls questioning how schools would operate safely and family life to exist.
Some parents are saying they will be struggling to try to keep both jobs so they can pay their taxes, mortgages, utilities, food and more, while also worry about increased child care expenses due to schools not being in full session. Some parents are concerned about getting locked into long-term child care contracts, only to learn the school district or state orders a change of direction.
Clark did say the supervisory union would make every effort to ensure that children within a family would go to school on the same day of the week as a way to reduce outside child coverage.
Vermont Education Secretary Dan French told The Islander on Tuesday that the state has stop short of making it a rule that siblings would go to school on the same day. He said those decisions are best left up to the local school districts as they work to re-open classroom.
Clark said students within the supervisory union would see a hybrid schedule for learning. He also said a survey of parents is currently underway.
He said the building principals have determined that not all students can return to their respective schools at the same time and meet requirements about social distancing. He said rough projected enrollments are: Alburgh 240, South Hero 135, Grand Isle 140 and North Hero 80.
The Isle La Motte School will not be used by the district this year. The Champlain Islands Unified Union School District Board voted 3-1 to shut down the school due to a limited projected enrollment – possibly 3.
“Not one school could get the 6 feet of distance,” Clark said. He said measurements were taken in various rooms, which would be limited to 4 students due to proper spacing.
He said there are 23 students projected for grades 3-4 in North Hero and 21 students in grades 5-6.
“The room is not there. It is not even close,” he told The Islander.
“We are not going to put kids, faculty and the community in jeopardy,” he said.
The supervisory district will continue to work with the state on how to deliver the best education possible, he said.
Clark said several educational models were considered and that more than 70 faculty and staff members attended a meeting to discuss the options.
He said the students in each class will be split into two groups, known as A and B. Group A will attend school on certain days, while Group B will be assigned other days to report, he said. The plan also calls for at least one day of remote learning within a 5-day period. Those will be known as C Days. The five-day rotation would look like ABCAB.
Clark said the schedule is designed to keep cross contamination to a minimum, allow for appropriate cleaning measures, provide a predictable schedule and keep the time between in-person days to a minimum. The hope is for “robust in person and remote learning and teaching,” he said.
“We know this schedule is not perfect however given the parameters we need to operate under it is the best choice,” he wrote.
The other schedules were considered but determined were less desirable for learning and health reasons, he said.
Clark told The Islander that he hopes parents will take advantage of the Community Forums to get the latest information and to ask questions. He said his office is trying to ensure that families have information they need to make decisions.
“Thank you in advance for helping to ensure all members of the GISU learning community are curious, creative, courageous, and capable of pursuing their aspirations in a diverse and ever changing world,” he wrote.