Vermont-NEA News

BREAKING: Governor's Opening Delay Good First Step Toward Safety

Governor’s Order Good First Step in Safe Return to School

Extra time should lead to phased-in approach to upcoming school year

MONTPELIER – Gov. Phil Scott’s order to delay resumption of instruction until at least Sept. 8 is a good first step in ensuring Vermont schools are safe for students, educators, parents, and communities, according to the state’s largest union.

“Vermont’s educators stand ready to work with school boards, administrators, health experts, and parents to ensure the safe resumption of instruction,” said Don Tinney, a high school English teacher who serves as president of the 13,000-member Vermont-NEA. “With today’s order, the governor has paved the way for an orderly, phased-in approach to reopening our schools.”

The union’s phased-in approach has four steps:

  • Phase One: Allow teachers, paraeducators, and all other relevant school employees to have uninterrupted time together to prepare for the return of children to classrooms, plan for distance learning, conduct staff training, and coordinate pandemic preparedness. This first phase is also where local education associations and local boards should negotiate over changes to working conditions caused by the pandemic. This two-week phase would begin in late August and end on Sept. 8.
  • Phase Two: Allow teachers and other educators to meet with students and families either in-person or remotely, as public health conditions warrant. This time will be used for social-emotional wellness checks, basic needs assessment, an evaluation of families’ technology needs, explaining curricular programming and academic expectations, and reconnecting with students, families, and colleagues. This phase will last until school districts can verify that they are safely able to transition to the next phase.
  • Phase Three: This phase is the resumption of teaching and learning, whether in-person, fully remote, or a hybrid approach. Districts can transition to this phase only after they adhere to locally approved plans and state mandates, and, critically, provide formal verification to the Agency of Education that they are able to meet important health, safety, and staffing standards.
  • Phase Four: This phase is an ongoing assessment of where we stand and, using public health data and educational progress, adjusting plans as necessary.


“Health and safety must be our first priority,” Tinney said. “By working together in a methodical, orderly way, I hope we can avoid the mistakes that would endanger our students, educators, parents, and communities.”

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