Give us the tools we need to continue safe in-person learning in Vermont schools!

Governor Phil Scott and Secretary Dan French

David Paarlberg-Kvam
Petition by
Washington, Vermont

To: Governor Phil Scott and Secretary Dan French
From: [Your Name]

Governor Scott and Secretary French:

We– the undersigned educators, administrators, parents, students and community members– are calling on you to reverse the recent directive to halt surveillance testing and contact tracing in Vermont schools. Instead, you must provide schools with the resources needed to operate safely, and must allow districts the flexibility to pause or modify in person instruction until that can be accomplished.

At a time of unprecedented community transmission and school capacity already in crisis, a policy that removes our only tools to mitigate the spread of the virus is incomprehensible and deeply troubling to us. Without reliable data about who may be infected or exposed, we will be operating in a constant state of uncertainty which can only exacerbate the logistical challenges and severe mental health struggles for both students and staff.

The fact that this decision was announced abruptly on a Friday night and made by politicians working remotely or from state offices where mask mandates and contact tracing are still in full effect is offensive and grotesque. These actions add insult to injury, and send a clear message that this administration is comfortable prioritizing the convenience of the majority over the safety of a vulnerable minority. This is anathema to what we stand for in public education: the principle that each individual deserves to feel safe and valued at school.

And the unstated premise that it’s acceptable for large numbers of students and staff to contract COVID at school because the current wave is “milder” than previous variants is empirically questionable and morally repugnant. The relative prevalence of mild cases of Omicron does not make it safe, especially given its extraordinary virulence. Studies have consistently found that up to a third of patients who contract COVID can experience long term symptoms, the full implications of which are not yet known. Furthermore, while many of us may experience Omicron infection as relatively mild, it can be debilitating or lethal to those with underlying conditions or coinfections. We demand that the state of Vermont continue to invest in creating the safest possible conditions for every adult and child in our buildings.

This is why we are calling on you to immediately implement the following measures:
- Continue to provide free weekly in-school testing for ALL students and staff
- Increase in-school testing to twice a week in all schools until surge decreases
- Provide high quality KN-95 masks (or equivalent) for all students and staff
- Ensure upgraded ventilation and any other measures to mitigate airborne transmission
- Ensure schools have the resources needed to continue contact tracing protocols (including hiring more staff, if needed)
- If there is not capacity for contract tracing protocols, this is a sign that schools need to be closed temporarily to contain spread
- Issue a statewide indoor mask mandate to curb community transmission
- Allow districts to temporarily transition to hybrid or remote learning until the measures above can be put in place

Let’s be clear. We are NOT advocating for extended school closures. We WANT to be in school with our students under the safest conditions we can reasonably provide, and we need time and resources in order to set that up. What you have offered falls far short of that. You must do better.