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Schools to stay closed for in-person classes for the rest of the school year

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MONTPELIER — Vermont's pre-K-12 schools are dismissed for in-person instruction for the rest of the school year.

Originally, Gov. Phil Scott's plan called for in-person instruction to start up again April 6 after he ordered school buildings closed starting March 18. Now, under a new directive, school districts will be required to put into place "continuity of learning plans for remote learning."

The decision was made in consultation with the Vermont Department of Health and the Agency of Education in the continued effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, states a news release issued Thursday night. Districts will need to come up with plans for "distance learning" by April 13.

"The education of our students and the bonding and learning experiences they have at schools are tremendously important, so I fully appreciate the impact and difficulty of this decision," Scott said in the release. "I also recognize it will be challenging for some schools to implement remote learning through the end of the year. But I'm encouraged by the creativity I've seen from administrators, educators and parents already, which is why I know, together, they can rise to the occasion."

Scott said some districts will need to come up with programs to offer onsite care for parents who are working on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic.

"These educators and staff who are finding ways to support these families have been critical to our COVID-19 response efforts and I am so proud and appreciative of their hard work, creative can-do attitude and their willingness to step up in this moment of service," he said. "These educators, and the staff supporting them, represent the very best of our public education system."

The Agency of Education is expected to provide guidance to districts by the end of the week especially as it relates to equitable access to learning opportunities, Free and Appropriate Public Education for students with disabilities, continuation of school meals, and school attendance and school calendar requirements. The Department for Children and Families will provide updated reimbursement provisions for providers who are not currently offering services and for providers who are delivering child care through the pandemic, states the news release. The state's education secretary will have guidance about end of school gatherings and graduations by May 8, according to the directive.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com and at @CMaysBR on Twitter.

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