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Survey: Community split on upcoming school year

 

Last updated 7/3/2020 at 11:37am

Teachers, students, and parents from the community voiced their opinions on the upcoming school year in a Star survey, and the results are as diverse as the personalities of the respondents. 

Two weeks ago, The Star reported on changes schools are facing for the 2020-21 school year after guidelines were released by the state's Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Those guidelines include rules such as those requiring all students and staff to wear face coverings and maintain a distance from one another, with implications for many aspects of school, including meals, transportation, assemblies, schedules, class sizes, teaching styles and more.

Lake Roosevelt Schools are also conducting a survey, Superintendent Paul Turner said at a June 22 school board meeting, and those results would be ready to look at during the upcoming July 13 board meeting. 

We asked readers how optimistic they were about the coming school year and what style of learning (distance, in-person or a combination) would be best.  We also gave them space to comment on the coming challenges and other thoughts. 

The survey received 63 responses as of Tuesday from seven teachers or staff members, three students, 45 parents or guardians, and nine who didn't fit into those categories. 

With all respondents combined, 30 (48.39%) chose the lowest, one-star optimism rating; 18 (29.03%) chose the two-star rating; 13 (20.97%) chose the three-star rating; and only one person (1.61%) chose the four-star rating. That yields a weighted average of 1.8 out of four stars.

A combination of in-person and distance learning was preferred by 23 respondents (37.10%); 22 (35.48%) felt in-person was best for the upcoming year; and 17 (27.42%) chose distance learning as the best teaching method for the 2020-21 school year. 

Teachers/Staff

Five of the seven teacher/staff respondents said they feel that a combination of in-person and distance learning will be best for the 2020-21 school year, with one respondent preferring in-person, and another preferring distance learning to a combination of the two. 

Challenges anticipated by teachers and staff include class sizes, student collaboration, cleanliness, frustrations with distance learning, and more. 

One teacher/staff respondent is also a parent and listed their challenges as "Meeting the needs of all students; Wearing a mask all day while trying to teach; Getting my own child out the door to school with a mask that is kept on." 

One particularly concerned educator listed challenges as "staying alive and not dying alone in an ICU unit with fluid filling my lungs because people are in a big damn hurry to pretend the pandemic is over."

Views on the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic are as varied amongst staff as they are in the nation. 

"Keep the school closed," one staff member wrote. "Cases will skyrocket." While another wrote, "I think it is ridiculous, but I guess it's better to be safe than sorry."

Students

Out of three student respondents, two chose the lowest optimism rating, one star, while the third chose the highest, four-star rating. 

One student thinks in-person school is best style for the 2020-21 school year, while the other two prefer distance learning. None of them chose a combination of the two. 

"Having a non-normal senior year," one student wrote as a challenge. 

"Wearing masks all day, going to the bathroom, and the bus ride to school are some of my greatest concerns," another wrote. 

"I see myself facing the difficulty of not getting exposed while going to school ... because I have an immunocompromised family member," another student wrote. "There's no way that students are going to be able to keep their masks on for the 7-9 hours that they spend on the bus and at school, and social distancing will be nearly impossible on the bus, so I'm honestly terrified by the prospect of returning to school. Additionally, the current plan of using the [Alternative Learning Environment] program's coursework for everyone seems terrible, since having taken some online courses through that curriculum, I can say that it is absolutely not as difficult as normal class work, leads to incredibly poor material retention, and is super easy to cheat on, since answers to virtually all of the quizzes and tests are available with a quick Google search."

The students offered additional thoughts on the situation: 

•    I think we should try to do everything as normal as possible.

•    The school should not reopen for the first semester to keep our students and staff safe. Going to school endangers the lives of kids, staff, and parents/ guardians. That is not a risk anyone should be willing to take!

•   Instruction should continue online with regular teacher interaction and weekly assignments. If you look at what colleges are doing right now, they set amazing examples for what can still be done with social distancing, so I would also look into this. Additionally, classes like auto shop or chemistry could meet weekly in small groups to get hands-on experience. However, something that has really been bothering me is that I know that some kids are still going to be sent to the bus with a fever or other symptoms at some point, so what do you do then, especially when their parents have already left for work? And what about when a parent refuses to vaccinate their child? Do we let their child endanger everyone else at the school, or are they suspended from attending in-person classes? I have a lot more questions, but until there's actually a coherent plan to safely allow students to continue their education, I can't see myself attending LR in the fall.

Parents

Most parents aren't very optimistic about the upcoming school year, with 21 choosing the one-star optimism rating, 15 choosing the two-star rating, eight choosing the three-star rating, and no one choosing the four-star rating. 

In-person teaching was the most popular option chosen by parents, with 17 preferring that to distance learning (preferred by 12), or a combination of the two (preferred by 15).

The issue of masks alone presents numerous challenges. Parents noted the difficulty in getting children to wear a mask or to wear it properly. Others are concerned about the difficulty in breathing while wearing the masks, or their child's tendency to scratch his or her nose and eyes because of allergies. Being able to properly learn and communicate while wearing masks is also mentioned numerous times.

Other key challenges anticipated by parents include childcare, the effectiveness and difficulty of distance learning, both parents working full time jobs, a parent possibly having to quit their job, getting children to keep their distance from one another, and more. 

Responses include: 

My kids won't go if they can't be themselves, and they don't want to feel like they are in prison 

With the cases spiking, it's going to get worse.

My oldest is going into 7th grade. He is also potentially compromised, being a heart patient from birth. My youngest is 6 and he is starting kindergarten. I want both my kids to learn at school, but if it's not possible to do safely, it is what it is. We can all learn together at home. I'm no teacher but I'll give it my best shot. 

Without home internet access, class attendance rates are going to continue to drop. With that, graduation rates will also go down. I've heard from multiple students (students on the honor roll) that if distance learning continues, what is the point of going to school "might as well drop out and work since I can't get the help I need."

How to handle my own work and school needs, and making sure that my child is also keeping on task and up to date. Teachers only get occasional interaction with our kids. They aren't there every day to ask why a child is goofing off. It's like a very prolonged homework session - little support for parents, no training for parents, but still have to make sure it's all done and explain it while the kid waits for an email back in a day or two from the teacher.

I see a lot of difficulty in getting kids back into school. They learn best in a classroom. Personally, the challenges for myself would be working above a full time job AND making sure my kids are getting their work done on time and correctly.

Juggling work and my responsibility as a parent to make sure that my kids are learning to the normal standard for their grade, and not the reduced (in my opinion) standard due to COVID-19. That responsibility does not lie all on the school district, but also on us as parents.

The word "normal" came up frequently in comments, with parents wanting their kids to have a sense of normalcy in their routines and education so the kids feel comfortable. 

"They should be able to be themselves," one parent wrote. 

"Making sure my child is learning properly and without fear," another wrote as a challenge anticipated. 

"Mental and emotional welfare of my children declining, which will also affect their ability to learn," another said. "I also have a child with special needs that I will homeschool because the proposed environment would be detrimental to him."

Health and safety are a common theme in the comments, with some parents emphasizing the importance of students and staff wearing their masks properly, or preferring delaying the opening of schools altogether until a COVID-19 cure is found, and the pandemic has died down. 

"I feel all kids need to be kept safe," one parent wrote. "I believe health measures must be implemented."

"Not getting sick from children coming home," was listed as a challenge to face. 

Making sure children get human interaction with their peers is another top concern. 

"Kids are all cooped up and they need interaction," one parent wrote.

"My child did not benefit a single thing from home schooling," another says. "Kids need that social aspect badly, and I saw that in my child." 

"How would recess and lunch be done?" one parent asks. "School is a learning institution but also it's meant for children to interact. This part is something we just can't currently have happen. It's unfortunate but true."

"I have issues around lack of socializing for all kids and an increase of internet groups and rooms," another parent wrote. "I also would not send a student to school to breathe stale air through a mask all day. I would suggest distancing and outdoor classes as much as possible. I also think that many great new ideas come from well advertised, well run forums that include brainstorming."

One parent thinks students should build their immunity by exposure to other students, and that going back to normal would be the best route.

"I do not want my children using a mask at school and impeding his breathing," that parent wrote. "I also do not want my children using hand sanitizer constantly; it is not good for them. I want my children exposed to germs to build their immune system. My children need interaction with their peers to stay mentally healthy. Children are not meant to be isolated. I personally think the schools should go back to normal."

One parent wrote about the need for the community to come together. 

"It will be near impossible to follow guidelines put forth to keep people safe," that parent wrote. "There is going to be a lot of work needed to come up with a plan that educates our children and serves their mental health needs - without sports, gatherings and social time as we've known it - our kids and families are challenged like never before. To excel, we are going to need to come together as a community and think outside the box. We need to focus on the positives and lift each other up. I whole heartedly believe we can make the best out of this difficult situation." 

Other

Responses from the nine in the "other" category mirrored those of the others. 

"Staying safe from Covid-19 when administrators, staff, and the community doesn't value laws, safety, health, or reality (public health information)," was said to be a challenge by one respondent. 

"Learning to live in a toxic world," was listed as a challenge by another. 

One suggestion from a respondent was that "teachers should wear clear face shields, not masks, so their lips and facial expression can be seen, and voice not muffled."

 

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