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School board is in an unenviable position

School board is in an unenviable position

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On June 19, the school division posted a parent survey on its website. Superintendent Mark Church said the survey remained up for a month. Approximately 2,300 families returned the survey, which represents approximately half of the division’s 4,200 students.

The first two questions were about the person completing the survey (for example, a parent/guardian) and the next eight of the 15-question survey asked for the child’s name, school and grade level for the upcoming school year. Then there were four questions of substance.

The first asked, “If the public health rules call for a reduced number of students in classrooms, which option best suits you?” It then gave three options to select from: Students attend only two days each week then supplement with online support the other two days, fully remote learning or unsure at this time. No options for a full return or even the board’s originally-passed plan of pre-K through second grade returning five days week with grades 3 through 12 distancing learning.

The results, however, were largely in favor of the two-day split with nearly 60% of the respondents in favor. Approximately 21% were in favor of fully remote and 19% selected unsure.

The second question asked about practices that benefit families during home instruction, and not surprisingly, the results showed students need daily feedback and/or daily live interactions with teachers and for younger students to have access to online devices.

Survey takers were also asked if school started with the A/B split would child care create a hardship on the days children were not in school. Surprisingly, 68% of respondents said no. The board cited this concern during its July 20 meeting as board members received emails and calls from parents.

The final question asked parents/guardians if they would be busing their children to school. The results here were close with three possible answers: Yes, with the understanding face coverings are required (31.7%), No (nearly 37%) and, both depending on schedule (32.4%).

The final question on the survey was open-ended for parental feedback. Results of those answers were not provided nor were those that would identify families or students.

While the survey questions didn’t cover all possible scenarios, they also missed another key element: the teachers and staff opinions. The board acknowledged during Monday night’s meeting they had overlooked discussions with the very people who will be responsible for educating these children and how they feel about going back to the classroom. To remedy this, they are holding a meeting that will last two hours. Speakers will be limited to three minutes each. If we calculate that correctly, that would be enough time for less than 40 people to address the board, factoring in introductions and lead time.

We believe board members care about the safety and well-being of the students. We know they are in a tough position as are all school boards across the nation right now. They should be commended for seeking input in a variety of formats from families, but hope they will find a way to let their teachers and staff also have a voice.

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