MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Vermont schools are poised to move to the next stage of reopening, including allowing greater use of facilities, more mixing of students and the start of interscholastic sports, the state's top education official said Tuesday.
The Agency of Education chose Saturday, Sept. 26, as the date to move to Step 3 of the reopening plan so the already-truncated fall sports season could have another weekend of competition, Education Secretary Daniel French said during a regular virus briefing held by Gov. Phil Scott.
The move will also allow schools to resume use of common areas such as gymnasiums and cafeterias for their intended purposes, but with smaller group sizes, staggering the use of the areas and ensuring they are properly cleaned between uses, French said.
“We believe it is critical to continue to work toward more in-person instruction while the conditions are optimal to do so,” French said.
Vermont school districts are able to choose whether to offer remote learning, full-time in-person instruction of a combination.
The states schools are able to continue their gradual reopening because Vermont continues to have the lowest rate in the country of COVID-19 infections.
Since schools reopened, there have been four cases of the virus in three schools. But all of the infected people brought the virus from home; none were infected in school, Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said during the briefing.
On Tuesday, the Vermont Health Department reported two new cases of the virus that causes COVID-19.
Since the pandemic began, Vermont has had a total of just over 1,720 cases of the virus.
The number of deaths remains at 58, a figure that has not changed in almost two months.