Sen. Sanders visits Plainfield to check in on summer programs

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PLAINFIELD, Vt. – On Friday, Sen. Bernie Sanders was in Plainfield to visit the Twinfield Union School Summer Program, one of many across Vermont that’s seen higher enrollment and more activities due to funding from the American Rescue Plan.

$71 million in Federal relief has resulted in summer programs that are longer, well-staffed, and most importantly, more affordable for families.

Sen. Sanders said removing those barriers has had a big impact for the thousands of kids who otherwise may have been stuck at home for the summer.

“Summer programs are always important, after school programs are always important, but especially after this year, when kids were isolated so much, when kids fell behind in their school work, we felt it was terribly important to do everything we can to give the kids a good summer,” Sen. Sanders said. “I think in Vermont, we’re doing that.”

For many students in the program, it’s the first time in over a year they’ve gotten routine social interaction with their peers. Sanders said that positivity has also extended beyond the students.

“It’s parents, it’s staff,” Sen. Sanders said. “I just talked to a staff member here who said how exciting and beautiful it was to finally see the kids that she works with every day in person.”

Rachel Hartman is one of those staff members, and she’s been busy this summer directing programs across the Caledonia Central Supervisory Union. Hartman, who is also the assistant principal of Twinfield Union School, said additional funding has allowed organizers to bring more variety to the program.

“Art, P.E., theater, we’ve done more outdoors things, so we’ve had the opportunity to not only do academics, but a lot of socio-emotional learning,” Hartman said.

Principal Mark Mooney told me pandemic isolation was tough for Twinfield, even when classes could be held in person. In retrospect, however, he said some aspects of it made the tight-knit K-12 community even stronger.

“I never felt the ‘it takes a village’ attitude so much in our community,” Mooney said. “There was so much great support from community members and parents, and in so many ways it was a wonderful year, and my excitement for the fall is off the charts.”

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