Jun. 10—In general terms, the experiences of smaller school districts versus larger ones differed during the COVID pandemic this past school year.
But smaller communities were impacted as well, as positive cases were reported earlier in the school year.
For the most part, however, the area's smaller districts were able to get through the school year with less hybrid/ remote learning than, say, larger districts like Windham.
Looking ahead, education leaders in these areas want as much normalcy as possible for 2021-22, though they're still waiting for the situation to develop.
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Small towns keep eye on guideline changes
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And vaccinations are seen as key.
Coventry Superintendent of Schools David Petrone echoed area superintendents when commenting on the uncertainty of future vaccination policies. " Unfortunately, I wouldn't know if the vaccine will be available for all students before the start of the school year," he said.
He said he respects the decision regarding whether to vaccinate children is a personal choice. " We are hopeful the state will provide further guidelines for districts in this regard before school starts in September," Petrone said.
Lebanon Board of Education Chairperson Sarah Haynes said the board is going to form a committee to take a close look at the guidelines anticipated from the state for next school year.
Although he is not on the job until July 1, incoming Lebanon Superintendent of Schools Andrew Gonzalez shared his thoughts about the situation.
" I definitely hope that we can get back to what we'll refer to as a better normal, that we'll be full ( capacity) in- person, that there would be very limited mitigation strategies, that we'll be able to get kids back working in groups and have that face- toface interaction that the kids and the staff need," he said.
Gonzalez said it is important to pay attention to and implement federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and state guidelines, as well as following state Department of Health and local health district recommendations.
As of now, those include the standard mask- wearing and social distancing that has been practiced since the schools reopened last fall.
Columbia Superintendent of Schools Maria Geryk said she felt many families are speaking with their child's doctor about the opportunity for children ages 12 and older to be vaccinated.
She said Eastern Highlands Health District staff have been a valuable resource for the school district, providing consultation and conducting contact tracing, as well as offering school- based vaccine clinics for staff and community members.
" There are many reasons to celebrate, most importantly, the persistence, innovation and resilience of our students, staff, administrators and families," she said.
Follow Lisa Massicotte on Twitter — @LMassicotteTC.