Early childhood centers are not in a safe position to open

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Dear Governor Scott,

Thank you for your leadership in mid-March to close schools and ensure early education programs across the state did not go bankrupt. You had the foresight, unlike most governors in our country, to understand that without state subsidy and stabilization money, our schools would close and never be able to reopen. Your actions helped countless teachers, students and families stay safe, stay home and stay healthy.

We write to you today to ask you to continue making policy that values human life over the state's budget and financial fears. Many early childhood centers are not yet in a safe position to open our doors to children and families on June 1 and by ending stabilization funding, this choice is actually not a choice at all. Schools and school programming for children over five years old are closed with no clear reopen date because it is not yet clear when it will be safe. Following that same logic, based on science and public health guidance, it is also not safe for children under five years old to return to school. Public school teachers and early childhood teachers alike are both childcare providers and educators.

We acknowledge that there are economic realities that make it seem like June 1 would be a good time to open. We value economic stability and security for Vermonters. We are also advocates for our students and are not willing to put children on the frontline of a virus that has affected so many when the data do not tell us that they will be safe. The parents of our students trust us to keep their children safe. Help us do the right thing.

Young children cannot survive without physical touch and yet physical touch is a huge risk factor in contracting or spreading a disease that has killed over 81,000 people in 10 weeks. Children are vectors who spread disease to each other and the adults who take care of them. They also are beginning to die.

Infants, toddlers and preschoolers are even less capable of social distancing and following public safety guidelines than their elementary and middle school aged counterparts.

Therefore, it does not make sense for them to return first. The consequences of opening too soon could be devastating and the victims would be some of our community's most vulnerable members — the ones you promised to protect when you took office.

We ask you to help us do this by extending the date for childcare to reopen to coincide with public school timelines and to continue stabilization funding to early education programs until then. When it is safe for all students to return to school, we will be there. Continue being a leader who prioritizes health over profit. Our lives depend on it.

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We look forward to your response.

Sincerely and with hope,

Teachers at Early Childcare Programs: Joslyn Haineswood, early educator, Marlboro; Emma Laramie, early childhood educator, Brattleboro; Tina Andrews, early childhood educator, Brattleboro; Jennifer Ricker, early childhood educator, Brattleboro; Heather Newell, early childhood education teacher, Brattleboro; Anne Koplinka-Loehr, early childhood educator, Brattleboro; Angela Jardine, early childhood educator, Brattleboro; Tyler Morris, early educator and home visitor, Brattleboro; Luke Euphrat, Laura Gypson and Kim Fletcher, early childhood educators, Mulberry Bush Independent School, Brattleboro; Dan Brown, Brattleboro Union High School; Alexis Drake, preschool assistant teacher, Brattleboro; Remington Kurkul, early childhood educator, Westminster; Michele Wood, Mulberry Bush, Brattleboro; Jen Rice, early childhood educator, Brattleboro; Lisa Harris, early childhood educator, Brattleboro; Auli Lyons, early childhood educator, Brattleboro; Laurie Markoski, EES Brattleboro; Samantha Palmer, preschool teacher, Brattleboro; Karon Given , early childhood educator, Brattleboro; Jennifer Simpson, early childhood educator, Westminster; Erica Smith, teacher, Mulberry Bush School; Casey Hagedorn, early childhood educator, Brattleboro; Holly Waryas, early childhood educator, Westminster; Tori Kelliher, manager Mulberry Bush Independent School; Tess Lindsay, director and lead teacher, Wildflowers Playschool, Putney; Allie McFalls, director, The Family Garden, Brattleboro; Martha Missale, Miss Marthas Creative ELP, Brattleboro; Kim Freeman, Brattleboro; Melissa Carlstrom, co-director of Horizon Early Learning, Brattleboro; Jill Sparks, early childhood educator, Westminster; Ellen Luna, education coordinator, Brattleboro; Chelsey Johns, preschool teacher, Brattleboro

Teachers, school staff and educators in solidarity: Theresa Conway, teacher Infant/Toddler Center, Brattleboro; Jeanie Phillips, professional development coordinator at the Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education, Londonderry; Tom Redden, Ph.D, professor emeritus, Newfane; Chloe Wolfman, public school teacher, Brattleboro

Sara Thomas, family support staff, Brattleboro; Joseph Beck, paraprofessional, Brattleboro Area Middle School; Francisco Mugnani, admin/IT assistant, Early Education Services, Brattleboro; Trish Coyne, planning room supervisor, Brattleboro Area Middle School; Patrick Johnson, transition room para, BAMS; Allie Futty, teacher of the Visually Impaired, Vermont Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired; Katrina Irish, paraeducator, BAMS; Melanie Keiser, administrative assistant, former preschool educator, Newfane; Mary Diane Baker, paraeducator, BUHS; Henry Zacchini, teacher, BUHS

Parents and Caregivers: Kim Friedman, South Newfane; Ellen Pratt, Putney; Alexis Drake, Dummerston; Timothy Guarente, Brattleboro; Rita Corey, music teacher, Dummerston and Academy

Non-profit worker solidarity: Rachel Siegel, executive director, Peace & Justice Center; Elizabeth Christie, Trustee, Turrell Fund; former executive director, Windham Child Care Association

Editor's Note: Due to space constraints, the 12-page list of signatories for this letter was reduced to reflect primarily those in the Windham County area.


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