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Schools to Re-open in the Fall

Yesterday Governor Scott and Education Secretary Dan French announced that VT public schools will open in the Fall, but in a modified way. Remote learning will continue in some instances, but of course details are not fully realized yet. Here's an excerpt from a VT Digger story from 6/10/2020:

Vermont’s K-12 schools will open for in-person instruction this fall, state officials announced Wednesday. Students and staff will undergo a health questionnaire and temperature checks every day, and the state will prepare alternatives for remote learning if schools need to close.

“We’re learning more every day” about controlling the spread of the Covid-19 virus, said Vermont Gov. Phil Scott at his regular Covid-19 press conference. “We know more about this virus now and have the tools to help prevent the spread today that we didn’t have three months ago, which helps us prepare for this transition back to school.”

Concurrent with this news emerging, the House Education Committee spent yesterday trying to prioritize an initial $50M of covid relief funds (from the Federal CARES act). Half of that money will be prioritized for covering unanticipated costs incurred by districts from March 18th until the end of the current fiscal year on June 30th. Reimbursable costs will include transportation services for school meal deliveries, since those represented a significant increase over budgeted amounts. An additional $20M will be available in grant to school districts, allocated accord to Title-1A rules. This money can be used in FY21 to prepare for the start of the school year and reopening. All these dollars must be spent by 12/31/2020. The remaining $5M would go to UVM and the Vermont State Colleges to help offset FY 20 costs. Of course these are just the recommendations of one House Committee. The final CRF expenditures related to PK-12 in Vermont may look a bit different. Also worth noting, the House Human Services Committee designated $12M specifically to support summer meals programs in VT for students since some school districts will not be operating programs, or do not have transportation services available. I'm very grateful to see this additional source of funds specifically targeting food insecurity among students this summer!  If you'd like to watch the video of these proceedings, it's linked on my home page. 

Also in the House this week:

We are in the process of passing S. 338, which includes significant reforms to our corrections system. Additionally we are passing a bill that would allow the Secretary of State to unilaterally proceed with a plan for expanded vote by mail. My understanding is that this would result in every registered voter receiving an absentee ballot automatically, with a prepaid envelope to return it with. In person voting will still be available, but this measure by the Secretary of State could reduce pressure on polling places and poll workers significantly in this time of pandemic. 

As always, you can tune in to House proceedings on our youtube channel. It can be slow at times, but certainly provides a great opportunity to see these bills worked on in real time.