In just a few days, students will find themselves back in the classroom. Some will be in-person, others will be online.
Across the state technology is making all that possible.
“Being a principle during this pandemic has been the most interesting thing I think I have ever done in my life,” said Steven Dellinger-Pate, U-32 High School Principle in Montpelier.
Principle Dellinger-Pate has worked tirelessly with his staff to ensure Montpelier students could safely resume in-person learning. And now, they can.
“They don’t have to stop, they just walk through normally and it’s nice to have something that continues to be the normal experience,” said Vermont Security President Jesse Harper.
A few months ago, Harper’s technology was first installed at the Central Vermont Medical Center. A few weeks later, the Burlington International Airport and, now, schools. His technology is said to capture a more accurate temperature reading compared to hand-held and oral devices. He says the Washington Central Unified Union School District is one of, if not, the first school district in Montpelier to adopt this technology.
Principal Dellinger-Pate says only 7 percent of the school will do their schooling online. That’s a little over 50 students out of 750. Bryan Olkowski, Superintendent of the Washington Central Unified Union School District says the rest will walk through the front doors Tuesday, which makes a system like this very necessary.
“We get lots of cold weather here in Vermont. When children get up you don’t want to have a large backlog of folks with someone checking your temperature manually for such a large school,” said Olkowski.
One parent told me she’s feels very comfortable sending her son back to school.
“He misses the community here. He’s ready to come back, he’s ready to start high school in the building,” said Sue Ognibene.
But her son isn’t the only one going back.
Ognibene is a middle school special educator in the district and has missed her 7th and 8th-grade students.
“I’m really excited just to see the kids. remote learning…it was hard seeing them on a screen… I’m excited to see them in person,” said Ognibene.
While schools from New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire plan to implement a hybrid approach of both in-person and online, it could lead to issues in areas where broadband is weak or doesn’t exist.
“The pandemic has spot-lighted how important it is for all communities to have access to the internet and we know up here in the Northeast Kingdom, our region is falling behind,” said Katherine Sims, Director of the Northeast Kingdom Collaborative.
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Through her collaborative, Sims works with schools to increase connectivity. She and her staff helped add wifi hotspots to public buildings such as libraries and town halls, allowing more residents to access high speed internet without a password.
This school year is unlike any before it, but community leaders across the region are determined to provide an extra layer of protection and support.