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Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Despite Spike in COVID, Vermont Officials Say Return to Restrictions Is Unlikely

Posted By on Tue, Jul 27, 2021 at 4:03 PM

Gov. Phil Scott - ANNE WALLACE ALLEN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Anne Wallace Allen ©️ Seven Days
  • Gov. Phil Scott
Despite an increase in COVID-19 infection rates nationally and in Vermont, Gov. Phil Scott and some of his key cabinet members remained upbeat during a weekly press briefing on Tuesday, saying they don’t anticipate a return of state restrictions.

After dropping for months, the rate of COVID-19 deaths started rising nationally and in Vermont in mid-July as the more infectious Delta variant took hold.

And on Tuesday, several national media outlets reported that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control would start recommending that vaccinated people wear masks indoors in some areas of the U.S.

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Thursday, July 15, 2021

Applications to Some Vermont Colleges Are Up Sharply This Year

Posted By on Thu, Jul 15, 2021 at 10:38 PM

The University of Vermont campus - FILE: JAMES BUCK
  • File: James Buck
  • The University of Vermont campus
The University of Vermont could see its largest incoming class ever this year, as applications rose nearly 40 percent compared to last year.

Other institutions reported big numbers, too: Champlain College saw an 83 percent increase, while Middlebury College and Vermont Law School each saw a bump of 30 percent.

"Increasing enrollment when we couldn't bring prospective and admitted students to campus is quite an achievement," said Stephanie Kloss, media director at Champlain College. 

The surge comes a year after enrollments at colleges and university dropped steeply as students chose to sit out rather than enroll in remote classes or hybrid systems. But the numbers for some colleges are also higher than in 2019.

Most colleges are reopening this fall with fewer health restrictions, though many are requiring students to be vaccinated.

Another added boost: UVM and Middlebury, like other colleges around the country, dropped the requirement that students submit standardized test scores. That decision “all but guaranteed a surge in applications from students who otherwise wouldn’t have applied,” Eric Hoover wrote of the national trend in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Institutions of higher education usually don’t report the size of the class until a few weeks after the fall semester has started, but UVM is confident it will be a record year.

“We expect it to be the largest, best-prepared and most geographically diverse class,” said Enrique Corredera, UVM’s director of news and public affairs.

UVM received a record-high 25,500 applications in 2021, Corredera said — a 38 percent increase over 2020 and a 32 percent increase over 2019. The class that entered UVM in 2017 was the largest so far, with 2,642 students. That's slightly more than the number that entered in 2019.

Corredera said the "yield rate" for accepted students, or the proportion of accepted students who choose to attend UVM, appears so far to be higher than usual.

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Thursday, June 24, 2021

Goddard College's New President Vows to Revitalize the Struggling School

Posted By on Thu, Jun 24, 2021 at 9:00 AM

Goddard's Haybarn Theater - ANNE WALLACE ALLEN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Anne Wallace Allen ©️ Seven Days
  • Goddard's Haybarn Theater
Goddard College, the small, progressive liberal arts institution in Plainfield, welcomes its fourth president in 10 years this summer.

Dan Hocoy, who most recently worked as a campus president for Metropolitan Community College in Missouri, said he plans to move to Vermont and looks forward to revitalizing the struggling low-residency college. Until last year, Goddard was on probation with the New England Commission of Higher Education, its accrediting agency. The commission had cited concerns about the school’s finances and governance.

Although it is now accredited, the school’s enrollment has dipped to 360, and it is leasing some of its 75-acre campus to other organizations as it strives to shore up its financial position. It reported an endowment of about $1.3 million in 2018. According to the Small Business Association, the school received a Paycheck Protection Program loan of between $1 million and $2 million last year.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2021

A Vermont Couple Drove a School Bus for a Combined 103 Years. Now They've Both Retired

Posted By on Tue, Jun 22, 2021 at 7:32 PM

Students celebrating the Fosters earlier this month - COURTESY OF CLIFF DESMARAIS
  • Courtesy of Cliff DesMarais
  • Students celebrating the Fosters earlier this month
For a combined 103 years, Jerry and Lois Foster drove the school bus in southern Vermont. Through black ice and snowstorms, the couple delivered generations of children each day to Flood Brook School in Londonderry and Burr and Burton Academy in Manchester.

Following heart surgery in 2019, Jerry’s cardiologist and family convinced him to retire at the age of 81. Lois, now 80, continued driving the bus through this school year before retiring.

Earlier this month, students and staff gathered in a playing field behind the Flood Brook School to celebrate the couple’s steadfast service to their community. School district officials presented the Fosters with a Simon Pearce bowl etched with their years of service

The recognition has been “a little overwhelming,” said Lois. “You don’t realize, you know. You just take it a day at a time and … when you saw that number on that glass bowl, it was like, Wow.”

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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

After Intense Debate, Essex Westford School Board Approves Equity Policy

Posted By on Tue, Jun 15, 2021 at 11:12 PM

A sign advertising an event last month in Essex - FILE: JAMES BUCK
  • File: James Buck
  • A sign advertising an event last month in Essex
After weeks of fervent debate, the Essex Westford School Board voted 8-1 on Tuesday night to approve a district equity policy.

In an emotionally charged Zoom meeting attended by around 150 people, board members reviewed revisions to the policy made in the past several weeks and asked questions of Superintendent Beth Cobb and Erin Maguire, the district’s director of equity and inclusion.

The policy, which the district’s 12 principals endorsed, lists 13 “indicators” that will show it is working, including a more diverse curriculum and staff; mandatory staff training around bias, stereotypes and equity; and teaching about the past in a way that dismantles “revisionist frameworks that perpetuate inaccurate portrayals of people in privileged and subjugated positions.”
Board chair Kim Gleason launched Tuesday’s discussion by stating that the  policy was the result of nine months of work by the school district and incorporated feedback from hundreds of community members. It was written by a group of 20 community members who identify as Black, Indigenous or people of color.

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One of Winooski’s Only Black Teachers Resigns, Calls Out Culture of Racism

Posted By on Tue, Jun 15, 2021 at 12:35 PM

Thierry Mugabo Uwilingiyimana at an event last summer - JAMES BUCK
  • James Buck
  • Thierry Mugabo Uwilingiyimana at an event last summer
Citing the Winooski School District’s "white supremacist culture" and a lack of support, Thierry Mugabo Uwilingiyimana — the only Black middle and high school teacher in the most diverse school district in Vermont — announced his resignation last week.

In an email to Superintendent Sean McMannon, middle school principal Kate Grodin and high school principal Jean Berthiaume, Uwilingiyimana wrote that after three years of teaching in Winooski, district leaders “have made it impossible for me to stay.”

The science and engineering teacher called out the white supremacy culture in the school district, which he said was not “overt racial prejudice” but “racism that is hidden in plain sight.”

“It looks like a district that is majority People of Color but entirely led by a white leadership team that resisted for decades to reflect that diversity. A leadership that would rather talk about diversity than be diversified,” he wrote. “It looks like a district in which most of the underpaid and overworked staff are [Black, Indigenous, people of color], with the most highly paid at the top.”

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Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Rice High Students Say School Mishandled Complaints of Sexual Violence

Posted By on Wed, Jun 9, 2021 at 6:57 PM

Maddie Goddard and Hannah Sheppard speak to Rice Principal Lisa Lorenz. - OLIVER PARINI
  • Oliver Parini
  • Maddie Goddard and Hannah Sheppard speak to Rice Principal Lisa Lorenz.
Several current and former students stood outside Rice Memorial High School on Wednesday to protest the school’s response to sexual misconduct.

Leading the rare public display at the private Catholic school were young women, including a rising senior, a recent graduate and a 2020 graduate, who each said they’d been sexually assaulted or harassed by fellow students on and off campus in recent years. They said administrators mishandled and downplayed their reports and, in at least one case, assigned a student to the same classroom as the young man she had reported as assaulting her.

“Jesus would not turn his back on a victim in the way the administration has,” they wrote in a letter to school officials. Administrators dispute the students’ claims.

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An Interactive Art Installation Gives Burlington High Schoolers a Place to Relax

Posted By on Wed, Jun 9, 2021 at 5:50 PM

Clay Mohrman's "Radiant Thought" - ALISON NOVAK ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Alison Novak ©️ Seven Days
  • Clay Mohrman's "Radiant Thought"
A new interactive art installation in a second-floor classroom at Burlington High School’s new downtown campus aims to give teens the space to relax, de-stress and just breathe.

It opened this week, after a pandemic year of remote learning and social isolation that hurt students’ mental health.

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University of Vermont to Require COVID-19 Vaccinations for Students

Posted By on Wed, Jun 9, 2021 at 1:19 PM

A health care worker prepares a dose of COVID-19 vaccine - COURTESY OF RYAN MERCER / UVM MEDICAL CENTER
  • Courtesy of Ryan Mercer / UVM Medical Center
  • A health care worker prepares a dose of COVID-19 vaccine
Updated at 1:37 p.m.

The University of Vermont will require all of its students to be vaccinated this fall, pending full approval of the vaccines from the federal Food and Drug Administration.

All full- and part-time students — “undergraduate, graduate, medical, and continuing and distance education students” — must be fully vaccinated and have proof of it, UVM announced on Wednesday. The school will also “continue to encourage faculty and staff members to get vaccinated,” the statement said.

“A fully vaccinated student population on our campus is the best way to protect the health of students, employees, and the broader Burlington community against COVID-19 infection,” UVM wrote in a list of reasons supporting its policy. “This public health approach is consistent with longstanding efforts across the United States to protect students of all ages from a wide range of serious and contagious diseases.”
Last fall, UVM enrolled a total of nearly 13,300 students, a spokesperson said.

"In rare instances, we understand there may be some unique health or religious reasons that may impact a student's ability to pursue the required vaccination," spokesperson Enrique Corredera said in an email. "Students requesting an exemption from the COVID-19 vaccination must complete a form by August 1."

The first day of classes begin August 30.

Both Pfizer and Moderna have applied for full FDA approval for their two-dose vaccinations, though Pfizer started the process earlier, in the beginning of May. It’s unclear how long the full approval will take, though it is generally many months.

Other Vermont schools of higher education, including Middlebury College, Saint Michael’s College and Champlain College, have announced similar requirements for student vaccinations. Norwich University has said that it will reopen with the “expectation” that all students, faculty and staff be vaccinated no later than August 1.

Gov. Phil Scott has said he'll lift all pandemic-related restrictions once at least 80 percent of eligible Vermonters age 12 and older receive at least one dose of vaccine. As of Wednesday, 79.6 percent had gotten at least one jab.

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Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Vermont-Based Remote-Instruction Startup Nets $6 Million From Investors

Posted By on Tue, Jun 8, 2021 at 9:01 AM

Narine Hall - COURTESY OF CHAMPLAIN COLLEGE
  • Courtesy of Champlain College
  • Narine Hall
A video conference company cofounded by Champlain College professor Narine Hall has received a round of investment worth $6 million.

The company, InSpace, sells a platform that is designed to ease personal interaction between students and teachers in virtual classrooms. InSpace announced Tuesday that it received $6 million in two rounds of funding, including a $2.6 investment from Boston Seed Capital in January, and $1.5 million each from Gutbrain Ventures of Boston and PBJ Capital of Lincoln, Mass., at the end of May.

Hall is a data science assistant professor and academic program director at Champlain College. She created the platform with software and video engineer Haykanush Lputyan, who lives in Armenia. The two, friends from college in that country, launched it last year as the pandemic sent students and professors out of the classroom to work remotely.

The company said its software is now used by more than 100 universities and schools worldwide. Hall, who lives in Colchester, said InSpace was making money almost as soon as it was founded 11 months ago and now has about 10 employees in Armenia and five in Vermont. She's looking for more employees, including those who can work remotely.

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