Vermont Making the Grade 2022

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With reports on: • Career centers getting students to work • COVID and high school athletics • How CCV’s flexibility helps during pandemic • Mental health needs for students A special supplement to the Bennington Banner, Brattleboro Reformer and Manchester Journal

“Yes, we still plan to extend our offerings,” Lawler said. “With the pandemic, rising costs, etc., the board and I decided it was best to wait on this until things stabilize, and we can focus on such an undertaking. The programs [cited as showing rapid growth] are the ones most likely to have some sort of Northshire expansion in the future.”

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School officials in Southern Vermont have seen a surge of interest in career education programs that has accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Career and technical education is unique and generally undervalued,” said Michael Lawler, superintendent and director of the Southwest Vermont Regional Technical School District. “However, seat space at Southwest Tech is quickly becoming a premium, often with programs developing waiting lists for the following year.” He added, “Students want Southwest Tech; they enjoy the rigor, relevance, relationships and the sense of belonging to their programs — all of which is fostered by the faculty and staff.” “Everyone agrees that learning anchored in the real world is a good thing,” said Michele Hood, who leads the department of science at Brattleboro Union High School and teaches biomedical classes at the Windham Regional Career Center. “The Career Center offers these great opportunities to weave an experience over time, not to just see who they will be, but also to see how they are becoming that.” Both programs offer courses in careers such as automotive tech, early childhood education, building trades, culinary arts, engineering, plumbing and electrical, biomedical and nursing, filmmaking and digital editing, and forestry. “Students enrolled at Southwest Tech come from all towns in Bennington County and Hoosick Falls, N.Y., and we are happy to report that we


Noah White, a 12th-grader, works on a fuse box on Dec. 17 as part of the Windham Regional Career Center’s electrical class. continue to see increased enrollment in almost every economic pathway,” said Lawler. “Southwest Tech affords students both exploration (or tryout classes), as well as fully immersed twoand three-year technical programs.” Southwest Tech, which is adjacent to Mount Anthony Union High


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Southern Vermont’s career centers getting young people to work

School, also offers a range of adult/ continuing education programs, including toward obtaining a commercial driver’s license and nursing assistant training. Future expansion of programming into the Northshire also has been discussed.

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IMAGE HAS CHANGED “Career and technical education in 2022 is very different than what it was in the 1960s or the stigma attached thereto,” Lawler said. “While we still struggle with the perception that (career and technical education) somehow provides a lesser education, is an alternative placement or a school for ‘other’ students not bound for college is really disheartening and tiring.” He said that what educators “really find is that people simply don’t ‘know’ what we do today and only have their own past experiences to draw from. In Governor Scott’s [recent] press conference, he called for the stigma of (career and technical education) to be erased. A four-year degree is no longer the gold standard of educational attainment, but rather a singular measure of accomplishment,” he said. “We start with the question: ‘What challenge or problem do you want to solve?’” said Anne Doran, Windham Regional’s career counselor. “We want them to see the connection between their interests and values and a broader career.” The shops and classrooms at both centers are well-equipped with modern industry-relevant materials, tools

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Students in the Nursing Center at the Windham Regional Career Center, in Brattleboro place clay in the shape of muscles onto a skeleton on Jan. 6.

and technology. “All of our educators are highly skilled professionals that had to re-enroll in college (while still working full time) to pursue their Vermont teaching license; the very same license that traditionally trained teachers obtain,” said Lawler. “We want them to have a real spark of creativity and see this can be fun,” said Richard Thompson, engineering instructor at the Windham Regional Career Center. “What they do after that ... whether going into engineering or becoming a machinist, a blacksmith, for all I know. Or in the arts.” Southwest Tech also offers dual-enrollment for students in six different program areas providing college credits. “While the full impact of the COVID pandemic has yet been realized, it is clearly time that career and technical

gram coordinator at the Brattleboro Development Credit Corp. “Their top-notch faculty and experiential learning opportunities help engage all students, whether college or workforce bound. BDCC’s Pipelines and


education be brought into the forefront of our society and no longer stay in the back alley of our minds,” Lawler said. “(career and technical education) centers are well poised to help usher in a new generation of professionals.” “The kids we trained 10 and 15 years ago, these are the people who have carried us through a pandemic,” agreed Nancy Wiese, director of the Windham Regional Career Center. “We are helping individuals do very honorable work.” The Windham center provides technical and career training for students from Brattleboro, Leland & Gray in Townshend, Twin Valley in the Deerfield Valley, Bellows Falls and from Hinsdale, N.H. “The Windham Regional Career Center is an invaluable resource for our county’s students,” said Christy Betit, Pipelines and Pathways Pro-

Pathways Program collaborates with the Career Center to connect students with high-wage, in-demand career sectors that lead to economic prosperity and an improved quality of life for our entire region.”

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Human Services student Jenn Coonradt working with Growing Up Right’s preschooler Lincoln Willette in Bennington.

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COVID and sports: Invisible virus frustrates players, coaches, athletic directors By Michael Mawson and Shane Covey Vermont News & Media


Leland & Gray’s Maggie Parker takes a shot during a varsity girls basketball game in Townshend on Dec. 28.

The truth is, lightning and the coronavirus can both strike twice. Just ask Hoosick Falls, N.Y., senior Tucker Thayne, who plays football, basketball and baseball for the Panthers. “It’s weird, especially when you have COVID. I’ve had it twice, once during football season and once during basketball season.” The first time Thayne tested positive, he was forced to miss two-anda-half weeks of his football season. With the recent updates to the Center for Disease Control’s guidelines, Thayne was sidelined for a considerably shorter time period — five days — during his senior basketball season. After his first bout with the virus, Thayne had to use an inhaler. He’s since ditched it, but still deals with some lingering effects of the virus. “I still feel it in my lungs every day

when I’m running. You can feel the burn and stuff like that.” Before the recent Hoops for Hope’s opening tip in Townshend, Leland & Gray Athletic Director Tammy Claussen reminded players to wear their masks correctly to keep everyone safe. “Competing with a mask on doesn’t really affect me at all. Sometimes I forget it’s there, and it slips under my nose, but then I readjust it. Usually at halftime I have to get a new one, but besides that, it’s not a big deal,” said Leland & Gray sophomore Maggie Parker, who scored 14 points in that contest. The uncertainty of it all is what frustrates her the most. “A few team members tested positive after Christmas break, so we were all forced to test, and we had to cancel a week’s worth of practices and games, which had an impact on our team. Knowing if we would be able to finish out the season or not had a big affect on me. Another impact that

Mount Anthony’s Sofia Berryhill pitches during a game against Brattleboro. the team. “You’re mentally prepared for a game, and you feel so up, and you’re ready to play — and then you get that text at 11 in the morning like, ‘Hey, guys, sorry, the game’s canceled again.’ We got that like four times in a row.” It resulted in low energy in practice, which forced the Patriots coaching staff to shift the focus from game planning and skill development to emphasizing energy. “As coaches, you don’t want to have to teach communication and energy, you want to teach basketball. But in this day and age, we had to teach a lot of energy, we had to teach making sure that we came every day and mentally brought it, because it sucks having a game — and then not having a game.” Carter Thompson is a sophomore on MAU’s basketball team. In his view, the slew of cancellations earlier in the season hurt the team. “I think we were just starting to figure it out and then it just wiped out our whole momentum and everything.” Fans, refs, coaches and players have been wearing masks to games for the past two years. Like it or not, they’ve all adapted to the reality of the situation. “It’s kind of normal for me and the rest of the seniors this year,” Thayne said. “It’s just the new normal, I guess. I hope it goes back.”

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was/is really unfortunate is when we are all ready for game day and then the team we are supposed to play cancels on us for ‘COVID reasons.’” Players are asked to stay home if they are not feeling well. “I think our team’s done a good job of being smart about it,” said Brattleboro Union High School star Chloe Givens after knocking down four three-pointers against rival MAU. “I’d rather not wear a mask (while running up and down the court), but I’m used to it now.” The Twin Valley varsity boys basketball squad hasn’t been at full strength since mid-December. “It has gone through just about my entire team. Every day is a waiting game to see who the next victim of some COVID protocol will be. It has affected many of our opponents as well,” said Wildcats coach Chris Brown. “I’m excited for a time when we can move past it. At the same time, it’s a great learning tool, as life often is. It has taught us patience, the ability to go with the flow and how to keep on moving forward, despite the circumstances.” The MAU varsity boys basketball team went 15 days between games earlier this season as it dealt with COVID-19 concerns. They never fully shut down, but took scheduling on a day-by-day basis while they waited for test results to come back. Coach Hunter Stratton said that not knowing was tolling on the morale of

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How can we support young people in a time of isolation? Experts say: Listen By Gena Mangiaratti Vermont News & Media BRATTLEBORO — For school-aged chil-


Laura Kelloway, manager of outpatient child, adolescent and family services at the Anna Marsh Clinic at the Brattleboro Retreat, says, “Take a moment to validate their feelings, if you’re lucky enough to have a young person share their feelings with you. Validation can feel a lot better than an adult trying to offer advice.”

dren and teens, their formative years changed all but overnight in March 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Students told their friends “see you Monday,” then went home to a state of uncertainty that has lingered to the present day, nearly two years later. “Young people have certainly faced significant disruption in their lives over the past two years,” said Laura Kelloway, manager of outpatient child, adolescent and family services at the Anna Marsh Clinic at the Brattleboro Retreat. The jobs of social workers who work with youth and the roles of

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school counselors also changed in a flash as the professionals grappled with how to safely help those coming of age in a time of global crisis. Gina Onorato, director of counseling at Brattleboro Union High School, said the school has a student engagement team that includes a social worker. The team focuses on assisting students with the transition to being back in the building and on keeping them engaged with their learning. She said the school has advised students and families how to seek mental health supports, inside and outside the school. “The advice we often give to our families is to be able to talk to their student about how things are going and be aware of when their behavior might change and what to look out for

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“Take a moment to validate their feelings, if you’re lucky enough to have a young person share their feelings with you. Validation can feel a lot better than an adult trying to offer advice.” Laura Kelloway, manager of outpatient child, adolescent and family services at the Anna Marsh Clinic at the Brattleboro Retreat.

related to the pandemic, they show such a willingness to cope with what is asked of them from school and their community,” she said. Through “pretty relentless disruptions,” she notices continued engagement in friendships, school, sports, theater, music and other activities. During the peak of omicron, a recent, highly contagious variant of COVID-19, she saw mixed reactions among youths: Some expressed worry about school closures, with many saying another shutdown would be intolerable. Others said they would prefer quarantining for a few weeks rather than worry about getting or spreading the virus. “The social isolation of the school closures was incredibly hard on young people,” Kelloway said. “I don’t think anyone wants to be in a position to revisit that.” For adults looking for ways to support young people, she encourages patience, and remembering that there have been learning losses related to academics and social development. She emphasizes the importance of listening. “Take a moment to validate their feelings, if you’re lucky enough to have a young person share their feelings with you,” she said. “Validation can feel a lot better than an adult trying to offer advice.”


She suggests, if parents or guardians notice their children to be particularly disengaged, sad or irritable, asking them what they think might be going on. “If they won’t share, let them know

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you’re available anytime they are ready to talk and offer them outside support,” she said. For an assessment and therapist referral, she advises reaching out to the school guidance department or a pediatrician.

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if they notice any changes,” Onorato said. “We often appreciate when parents also reach out to us if they are concerned, so we can work together to support their student.” What strikes Kelloway about the way young people have handled the crisis is their resilience. “While the kids I know all express some level of frustration and fatigue 7

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CCV’s flexible options helped this nursing student stay on track By Cheryth Youngmann Vermont News & Media BENNINGTON — “I’ve always been that person that said, ‘I never want to take online classes if I don’t have to,’ because I’m a total social interactor. I get energy from others,” said Angela Ellison, 46, explaining that college and COVID have been a difficult mix. Ellison is a Bennington resident and a Community College of Vermont student, on a nursing track. And she discovered that college, like most things in life, has been altered by the pandemic. Colleges and their students in Southern Vermont have adjusted to COVID in multiple ways, from coronavirus testing and masking to mental health supports, and from distance learning to hybrid and flexible schedules. In spring 2020, Ellison’s classes moved to distance learning, and the

stresses of virtual education took a toll, she said. But there was an upside. “COVID brought up some extreme things into my life that kind of needed to be worked through, that I wouldn’t have realized if it hadn’t been for COVID.” When she was younger, she had anorexia, an eating disorder. Something about the difficulties of distance learning made her finally face unresolved pain from her past. “I did want to drop out at that point.” But she got the help she needed, through trauma counseling and academic support. “My teachers were amazing — every person that I have dealt with at CCV, from the professors to the administrative assistants, to the receptionist to my advisers supported me.” After receiving extensions and taking time off for the summer 2020 semester, she’s back on track to finish

up all her prerequisite requirements this spring. With 12 locations at major hubs — including Bennington and Brattleboro — and online learning options, CCV is in many ways a microcosm of higher education in the state. But with about 50 percent of its classes offered online prior to the pandemic, it was poised to make a fairly graceful pivot to the hybridity that the pandemic has demanded. “It was still quite a lift for students and faculty, but we were well-positioned for that change in spring of 2020,” said Katie Keszey, director of the communications department at CCV. CCV offers students the options to enroll in traditional, synchronous online, hybrid or flex courses. The last is an option that allows students to self-pace a course, and is part — along with low tuition — of the college’s commitment to accessibility. Many of the school system’s stu-


Angela Ellison. dents work full time while enrolled, making flexibility necessary, not just a perk. The school system now requires its students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to participate in person.



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COVID-19 pandemic poses unique challenges for homeless students By Alexandra E. Pavlakis Southern Methodist University

Before the pandemic hit in March 2020, Faith 3 a single mother with two children, one in third grade and one in fifth grade — worked at a sports stadium in Houston. Her focus at the time was “paying for a room and trying to pay for child care,” she stated during an interview. But after the pandemic began, the stadium canceled games and Faith found herself out of work. Not long afterward, she and her children were evicted. “When they’re cutting hours and … work’s getting shut down … nobody making no money,” Faith, a young African American mother who did not finish high school, said during an interview held at a large and secure family shelter for the homeless. Faith — that name is a pseudonym to protect her privacy — spoke with my research team for a study designed to better understand student homeless-

ness during the pandemic. Like many children across the nation, Faith’s children began virtual schooling in March 2020 but experienced technical problems, such as slow and spotty internet. “I mean, you got to be in the right spot, right time and then the signal went bad anyway,” Faith explained of her children’s challenges with finding reliable internet service. Faith also struggled to keep her children engaged. For instance, when they were supposed to be paying attention in their online class, they would instead be watching TikTok videos. She wondered how working mothers could be expected to sit down with their children all day. Despite the challenges of virtual learning, Faith said, she preferred online learning because she wanted her children “to be healthy” – that is, away from the risks of contracting COVID-19. However, Faith felt pressured to send her children back to in-person

school in Houston’s public school system in fall 2021, which made her “very nervous.” “We don’t have an option to do virtual,” she said. Faith’s children are just two of the roughly 7,000 students in the Houston Independent School District – the eighth-largest public school district in the nation – who are experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic. There were 1.28 million students experiencing homelessness nationwide as of the 2019-2020 school year, federal data shows. A HARD-TO-SEE POPULATION Student homelessness is defined by the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act as lacking a “fixed, regular, and adequate” place to sleep at night. Homelessness doesn’t always mean being out on the street. Rather, being homeless can take on different forms, such as “doubling up,” or staying with others because of loss of housing or economic necessity, as do about 78 percent of students who are

homeless. Another 11 percent rely on shelters, 7 percent use motels, and 4 percent are in unsheltered places, like cars and parks. Students from families who are homeless tend to move around a lot and frequently change schools, which disrupts their relationships with friends and teachers and can hurt their progress in school. Students experiencing homelessness tend to have lower attendance, test scores and graduation rates than other low-income classmates who aren’t homeless. These disparities remain despite the fact that federal law is meant to ensure that students experiencing homelessness have the same access to a “free, appropriate public” education as everyone else. The COVID-19 pandemic has made it harder to identify children who are homeless. As part of a research partnership between the Houston Education Research Consortium and the Houston Independent School District, my colleagues Meredith Richards, an education policy professor, and postdoctoral fellow J. Kessa Roberts and I are examining how the pandemic has affected students experiencing homelessness and the schools and various organizations that support them.

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Rather than wait for families to notify schools of their needs, schools can proactively reach out to families to share positive news about their children, or send supplies. Strong, trusting relationships between families and schools can help overcome whatever hesitancy families may have to ask for help. 3. Make sure kids stay connected when necessary If schools, classrooms or certain students are temporarily remote, schools can ensure students have digital devices and Wi-Fi to connect to class. They can also work with shelters, libraries and other organizations to facilitate computer labs and academic support access for families experiencing homelessness. 4. Recognize and respond to mental health needs Feelings of social isolation, common in homelessness, can be made worse by school closures, quarantines or family death. Many people, like Faith, lost their jobs because of COVID-19 — and were then evicted. When helping families who have experienced these kinds of challenges, schools can offer services that focus on their social and emotional needs. Educators can also connect families with mental health care and other resources, such as apps, websites and phone numbers to call to get additional services, as needed. As families experiencing homelessness search for a stable place to stay, schools and districts can play an important role in alleviating some of the challenges that such families face.

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Below are four broad areas on which educators, school leaders and others can focus to help students and families experiencing homelessness. 1. Figure out which students are homeless Identifying students who are homeless can be a challenge because often families don’t reveal that they are homeless — because of stigma, fear or other factors — and educators aren’t always aware of the signs of homelessness. The pandemic made it that much harder because many students were attending school virtually. When a school district fails to identify students who are experiencing homelessness, the students do not get the benefits to which they are entitled under federal law. These include the right to stay in the same school even if they move, to request school transportation and to access other resources, such as school uniforms or field trip fee waivers. While schools typically collect housing information at the beginning of the year, schools can ask housing-related questions throughout the year as well. 2. Collaborate and share data Schools and districts can collaborate with shelters and various organizations to make sure that students who experience homelessness get the resources to which they are entitled by federal law. When shelters and schools agree to share data, school districts are able to be notified more promptly when students enter a shelter and in turn can hook students up with school supplies, tutoring or other services.

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