Covid, cold weather close schools across Vermont

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U-32 Middle & High School in East Montpelier. Photo by Mike Dougherty/VTDigger

Dozens of schools are scheduled to be closed Tuesday as temperatures plummet and Covid-19 cases surge.

Letters from administrators to staff and parents listed a host of reasons for closing. 

“Due to a combination of staff shortages, extremely cold temperatures and windchills, and very high Covid cases, there will be no school for all schools in the Barre Unified Union School District,” Superintendent Chris Hennessey wrote in a statement.

The Winooski School District plans to close through Wednesday due to increasing case numbers among students and staff, the district announced on its website.

“Combining an inability for students to be outside and windows to be opened due to extremely cold temperature with the highly contagious nature of the (Omicron) variant creates a situation that warrants the closure,” Montpelier Roxbury Public Schools said in a statement on its website. “We plan to be back in session on Wednesday, January 12th but will be watching our staffing levels closely.”

Mark Speno, Windham Southeast School District’s superintendent, said in a Facebook post that the cold and “the fact that many of our schools and nursing departments are over extended with contact tracing” led to the decision to close school on Tuesday. 

Superintendent Emilie Knisley of the Orange East Supervisory Union said in a letter to staff and students’ families that by the end of the day Monday, 103 staff members were absent. Schools throughout the district are set to be closed through Wednesday. 

“We can't safely operate our schools with more than 30% of our staff unavailable for the workday. Likewise, we are not able to offer remote learning with that number of staff absent,” Knisley said. “We simply have too many staff members out caring for quarantining or ill family members, quarantining themselves, or who are symptomatic or caring for someone with COVID-19.”

The National Weather Service announced a windchill warning for much of the state through 3 p.m. Tuesday, predicting windchills as low as 35 degrees below zero with the coldest temperatures coming between 2 a.m. and 11 a.m. The rest of the state is under a windchill advisory for the same time period, according to the National Weather Service, with windchills as low as 25 degrees below zero.

School districts that cited the freezing cold as the reason for closing Tuesday were the Addison Central School District, Burlington School District, Champlain Valley School District, Colchester School District, Essex-Westford School District, Franklin Northeast Supervisory Union, Grand Isle Supervisory Union, Mount Abraham Unified School District and St. Johnsbury School District, among others. Click here for a list of school closures.

Peter D’Auria contributed to this report.

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Jeralyn Darling

About Jeralyn

As VTDigger's news editor, Jeralyn Darling anchors the night desk, often as the final set of eyes on stories before they are published. Before arriving at VTDigger she was a night desk editor at the Valley News, covering the Upper Valley of Vermont and New Hampshire. Jeralyn has spent the last 14 years as a journalist. She holds a BA in journalism and sociology from Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida. When not at work, Jeralyn can be found on the trail with her husband, in the woods hunting mushrooms or volunteering with animals.

Email: [email protected]

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