MAUSD stories: Rural Vermont learning in the midst of COVID-19

An MAUSD elementary school student participates in remote learning.

Editor’s note: This is a project of the Mount Abraham Unified School District’s Community Engagement Committee (CEC). The Addison Independent is hosting this content as a service to the community. Names of the interviewees have been withheld in accordance with the commitments made by the CEC for the project.
On Sunday, March 15, Gov. Phil Scott ordered all Vermont schools closed as of Wednesday, March 18, until at least April 6. Scott’s directive tasked all local school districts with planning to continue to offer food and special needs services, and ensuring children would continue to be educated during the shutdown. On Thursday, March 26, the governor ordered schools to remain closed for in-person instruction through the end of the school year.
In the Mount Abraham Unified School District (MAUSD) March 16 was the last day of “regular school.” By March 19 the school district had begun providing free breakfast and lunch meals for all students, delivered by school buses and available at two school sites. By the following week, remote teaching and learning was underway for K-12 students.
This is the story of one small, rural Vermont school district. The picture it paints is not a vision of the future of public schooling. Deep learning depends on much more than remote teaching can provide. But it is the story of how one district’s long-standing focus on
• relationships and collaboration
• innovation and improvisation
• personalized learning and flexible pathways
• the development of systems of support for teachers and students
• facilitative leadership
• technology
• community
• equity
is enabling its five elementary schools and its middle/high school to rise to this sudden, sweeping, unforeseen and unprecedented challenge in remarkable ways.
To tell this story, five members of the MAUSD Community Engagement Committee interviewed a small group of MAUSD students, teachers and administrators, during weeks 4-7 of the shutdown, asking them to reflect on the sudden changes in their working lives. Here is what they had to say:
• Part One: What does your working life look like these days? What have been the biggest shifts in your everyday routine? What does a typical workday look like for you during this time?
• Part Two: What have been your biggest challenges or concerns related to your work during this time?
• Part Three: What have been the most helpful supports for you so far in shifting the way you work?
• Part Four: What have been the biggest surprises or discoveries you’ve made in shifting the way you work?
• Part Five: Is there anything else you’d want people to know about what this shift has been like, so far, for you?
Special thanks to the other members of the MAUSD Community Engagement Committee (Sally Burrell, Elizabeth Maher, Mary Simons and Krista Siringo) who helped conduct these interviews. Extra special thanks to the students, teachers and administrators who agreed to respond to our questions!

Nancy Cornell is the editor and publisher of Vermont Learning, a free weekly online newspaper for educators. She also works as an educational consultant, with a focus on facilitative leadership of intentional learning communities. She is the former Associate Superintendent of Schools for the Addison Northeast Supervisory Union, and a former member of the board of Robinson Elementary School in Starksboro.

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