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Amid confusion, Vermont education officials say that masks can be required in certain school situations – Brospar Daily News

At a parent event at Flynn Elementary in Burlington late last month, a parent handed out a copy of a note asking others to consider having their children wear masks in class.

According to a photo obtained by VTDigger, the note reads: “A student in your child’s class has an underlying medical condition that may put that person at increased risk when exposed to symptoms of an illness infectious.”

Later that day, Flynn Elementary School principal Nikki Ellis emailed parents regarding the “situation” at the event. Ellis said the grade was “not approved” by administrators at the Burlington school.

“While we encourage each family to decide whether to send their child to school with or without a mask based on their needs and experience, we do not currently require students or staff to wear masks at Flynn Elementary. “, wrote Ellis. The decision is entirely up to each family and how they want their children to appear in school.

The Burlington incident has highlighted the anxiety and uncertainty surrounding face coverings as children return to schools that have had little or no Covid-19 safety rules for the past two years.

In March, Vermont officials It is revoked They recommend schools maintain indoor mask regulations. Since then, state officials have encouraged schools – sometimes strong — Avoid mask requirements.

But last week, two days after the Burlington swap, the Vermont Department of Education said schools would allow such assignments under certain circumstances.

After state officials received “several questions” about safety rules, Vermont Education Secretary Dan French told the superintendent on Sept. 1 that “schools may need to put in place wearing a mask or other mitigating measures as a medical facility. Reasonable accommodations for injured students.

The guidance comes just days after school starts statewide, and some advocates say it’s a worrying time for school administrators and parents of immunocompromised children.

“What we’re hearing is that in the context of integrating recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recommendations from states, and the U.S. Department of Education’s publication on how we can reasonably welcome students with Covid,” said Rachel Rachel, director of Vermont Legal Aid’s Disability Law Program. said Rachel Seelig.

Department of Education spokesman Ted Fisher said the announcement was not a change in policy. Instead, he said, the state is simply reiterating existing laws: Students have a right to an education, which could mean schools must make adjustments so students with certain medical conditions can attend classes safely.

“We note that schools have a responsibility to provide this free and appropriate public education before – remember, before – the Covid-19 pandemic,” Fisher said. “Then they need to be aware of the steps they may need to take to get students into school.”

He compared the situation to schools where students suffer from severe allergies.

“So you have a student with a peanut allergy,” Fisher said. “You probably have to (ban) the whole school from eating peanuts, right? Because that’s how you’re going to make sure the students aren’t exposed.

If a student has a disability, the educators and healthcare professionals in charge of that student can decide if they need an environment where others are shielded. If so, educators can add it to the student’s Individual Education Plan, commonly known as an IEP, which lists the provisions necessary for their education.

“Students with disabilities have the right to take general education classes and be with peers of the same age – what we call the least restrictive environment – ​​as possible for the student,” Seelig said.

Alyssa Chen, coordinator of the Vermont Coalition for Educational Justice, said the state’s new guidelines are “better late than never” but said “there isn’t a lot of clear support.” Chen noted that the Ministry of Education has not shared contact details for experts or provided clear resources to officials and parents.

“Parents have a lot of questions about how to protect medically vulnerable students,” she said.

Chen said she is aware of about half a dozen cases where parents have tried to add masking requirements to their children’s IEPs. In at least two of those cases, students attended school in at least partially masked environments, she said. In other cases, parents have been asked to ban masks, she said.

Burlington School District spokesman Russell Elek said in an email that district officials are contacting the DOE to “seek clarification” on Frank’s letter and will contact families if there is a change in Politics.

He noted that administrators had “not received any documentation from a doctor recommending that masks be worn throughout the class.”

“As this work continues, it is important to know that we take documented cases of frail children and the housing needs of these students seriously,” Elek said.

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