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Forum, July 29: Lebanon devising safe, effective school scenarios

Published: 7/28/2020 10:00:24 PM
Modified: 7/28/2020 10:00:22 PM
Lebanon devising safe, effective school scenarios

Like all school districts in our country, Lebanon is devising the safest and most effective way to educate our students in the time of COVID-19. Most people appreciate the gravity of decisions we make and the challenge of making those decisions based on evolving research and changing recommendations. In June, Superintendent Joanne Roberts organized a “Fall Planning Team” consisting of teachers, paraeducators, administrators, parents and board members. The group was charged with planning for scenarios ranging from in-person instruction to fully remote learning, based on the guidance issued by the New Hampshire Department of Education (see the “COVID-19 Information” link at www.sau88.net).

Many factors must be balanced when learning begins in September. Among them are the safety of students, staff and their families; maintaining the high standards of a Lebanon public school education; ensuring that our special needs students receive adequate services; and recognizing the needs of parents who work a 40-hour week. The School Board strongly prefers in-person learning with appropriate safeguards. Recently, a survey was sent to families to assess the comfort level of parents for in-person versus remote learning. The options available will depend in part on feedback from this survey. Regular updates will be provided by the superintendent’s office and a final plan will be approved by the School Board at its Aug. 5 meeting.

We are fortunate to have a very low incidence of infections in the Upper Valley. Should that circumstance change, we will take appropriate measures, including a return to remote learning if necessary. It is important to emphasize that no plan can ensure zero risk. A “layered approach” involving masks, social distancing, cleaning protocols, temperature checks and testing will provide the most secure environment possible. In all cases, the district’s actions will be guided by science and established best practices.

The Lebanon School Board fully supports Superintendent Roberts in her efforts to plan for the upcoming school year. She has demonstrated exemplary leadership in this difficult time and has shown time and again her concern for the safety and well-being of students, staff and families.

WENDY HALL, JENICA NELAN,
KRISTIN O’ROURKE and RICHARD MILIUS

Lebanon

The writers are the chair, vice-chair, secretary and Fall Planning Team member, respectively, of the Lebanon School Board.

Zuckerman brings skills, values and experience

I’m happy to report that I’ve already voted for David Zuckerman for Vermont governor in the upcoming primary. I’ve known him for several years and enjoyed getting to know him while I was in Montpelier serving in the House. What impressed me most about him is his willingness and ability to talk to everyone, to listen to everyone, no matter what their political viewpoint, and to bring people together on the important issues that face Vermont.

As lieutenant governor, Zuckerman was consistently committed to bringing a diverse group of stakeholders to the table to look for solutions on every issue that we took up in Montpelier. That open approach is exactly what we need, whether we’re discussing how to reopen schools safely in the fall, looking at ways to grow our rural economy or addressing issues of racism and hate in our communities.

There is no way around it: Vermont is changing, some ways for the better and some ways that I worry we may regret. The eroding of support for our critical agricultural communities is something that I firmly believe will not make Vermont a better place, and having a well-informed, deeply committed governor who also happens to be a farmer will be important to our future.

I know David Zuckerman to be a thoughtful, knowledgeable, competent leader, and I’m very proud to support him for governor of our wonderful state. He brings all of the skills, values and experience that we need in our governor as we head into the future. Please join me in bringing David Zuckerman to the governor’s office, starting with a vote for him in the primary election on Aug. 11.

SUSAN M. BUCKHOLZ

West Hartford

The writer represented the Windsor 4-1 district in the Vermont House from 2017 to 2019.

Surprenant understands the keys to Vermont’s future

Heather Surprenant will serve us well in Montpelier if we elect her to represent the Windsor 4-1 district: Barnard, Pomfret, Quechee, and West Hartford. Raised in Randolph, and with broader national and international experience, Surprenant is a young farmer committed to making Vermont the vibrant, inclusive, forward-thinking state it can become in the midst and aftermath of the pandemic. She understands that wise stewardship of the land, expanded educational and economic opportunities for youth and families, and affordable housing and health care are the keys to Vermont’s future, and she will work hard to advance these issues in the Legislature.

To learn more about Heather Surprenant before the Aug. 11 primary, visit www.heather4vthouse.com.

TEO ZAGAR

Barnard

The writer represented the Windsor 4-1 district in the Vermont House from 2011-2016.

Demrow truly listens to and works for his constituents

I cannot strongly enough encourage all citizens in Vermont’s Orange 1 district to vote for Rep. Carl Demrow in this November’s elections.

I am an independent voter, raised on Reagan-era Republican values and the necessary attributes of hard, honest work essential to my parents’ success as small-business entrepreneurs, and bolstered by a strong sense of social responsibility instilled by my upbringing in Burlington in the 1990s. Born and raised Vermonters and proud University of Vermont graduates, my husband and I recently moved back to our home state after several years building our careers in ways unfortunately not possible in our beloved Vermont.

Like many of us, the loneliness and despair of COVID-19 awakened a dormant sense of public accountability in me. As calls for racial equality and law enforcement accountability rang out through our country, I took what I felt to be the most pragmatic approach — I contacted my representatives to see what was happening on a local level. I sent an email at 7 a.m., and at 8:05, I received a phone call back from Demrow. It has been nearly six weeks, and in that time, he and I have had multiple engaging and insightful phone conversations and email exchanges. He truly listens to and works for his constituents. In a thankless job, he is resolute in his responsibility to understand and represent those who he serves. He is well-educated on the variety of issues we have discussed, and I am confident that he takes a common-sense approach to representing the interests of both our rural community and our state at large. Bottom line: He acts exactly as I believe every elected official should. He represents you already, so engage him in a conversation, and you’ll quickly see for yourself why he should unquestionably continue to be a voice for the Orange 1 district in Montpelier.

ALISON O’CONNOR SUTHERLAND

Washington, Vt.

Returning students pose risk

I am a retired Geisel Medical School professor and a concerned community physician. I question Dartmouth College’s plans to resume in-person classes on campus within the next few months.

Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire have so far had reasonably good outcomes in the COVID-19 pandemic, and yet a total of almost 12,000 cases and almost 600 deaths have occurred in the three states. Leaders and citizens of our states crafted a sober response to scientific and public health information and recommendations, and consequently the shutdown of our businesses and schools has resulted in relative “success” in containing the pandemic in our region. But it is not yet clear whether, or when, public schools in this region should reopen in the fall. And the same is true of colleges in our area.

As an older member of the Hanover community, a cancer survivor and someone with pre-existing medical problems, I speak for many here who question the rationale for Dartmouth to provide in-person instruction in Hanover. Bringing thousands of young people to Hanover from all over the country and the world — virtually all coming from areas that have fared less well in the pandemic — will without question expose this community, especially our vulnerable population of seniors, and many local senior living facilities, to increased risks. College students will participate in frequent socializing and large parties, which will challenge social distancing and mask-wearing protocols. Local citizens will face increased exposure when they utilize essential Hanover services like drugstores, grocery stores and the town eating establishments that students also frequent.

I urge the college to think again about the risks that returning students to campus bring to this area. Some will label the college plan self-serving and thoughtless. This pandemic is far from over, and it is raging in a good deal of the country. How much increased COVID-19 illness and mortality will this plan bring to this town and region, and how can a private college justify risks to the public?

CAROLE A. STASHWICK

Hanover

Perilous times in America

Among the torrential downpour of horrors that the present administration has unleashed on the good people of America, none is more frightening than the deployment of federal agents into our cities. This is supposedly limited to a few cities, which is horrifying enough. But as with everything that comes out of the mouths of the president and his sycophants, the only reasonable premise is that he’s lying. Besides, even if true, Portland today, Chicago next week, and Burlington in a month or two?

With news of this latest outrage, I can’t help but think of Argentina when it was ruled by a group of complicit military dictator thugs and a phrase whispered there only among one’s immediate family and a few very close friends — escuadrone de la muerte — death squads.

These are no doubt perilous times in America. If you think otherwise, please consider that shortly after their arrival in Portland, federal agents snatched people off the streets into unmarked vehicles, among other unprecedented attacks upon the liberties of our fellow citizens.

If you truly love freedom, the current administration is an extraordinary threat.

MARK LATHAM

Hartford




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