Surveys say: Parents want children to return to school in the fall

Large majorities of parents who responded to surveys in Idaho’s two largest districts want their children to return to school in the fall.

That’s according to surveys sent to parents in recent weeks in the West Ada and Boise school districts.

In West Ada, 73.5 percent of responding parents said they would be comfortable sending their child to school assuming school reopens in the fall.

In Boise, 85.1 percent of parents surveyed said if school buildings reopen, they would be comfortable sending their child back under certain conditions, such as adherence to health guidelines.

“It’s pretty clear from our parents — and you hear this in some of the comments too — that school needs to look more like school, even if kids aren’t in class, where there is interaction with a certified teacher, where they’re doing assignments, turning them in, getting feedback, getting graded, school stuff,” West Ada spokesman Eric Exline said.

While parents want their children to be able to return to school, safety is a priority for them. Many parents in West Ada expressed uncertainty over a number of issues, from returning to school to sports participation and more.

Since March, the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted education across the globe. Other than a small number of exceptions, Idaho’s public school districts and charters made a rapid and historic transition to remote and distance learning this spring.

“It’s obvious our parents and staff have high expectations for education and we are committed to meeting and exceeding these expectations as we move forward,” Boise Superintendent Coby Dennis said in a written statement. “Our board of trustees and our administration will now dig deeper into these survey results as we plan for the fall. We want to reassure our parents, students and staff that we will do what we do best – educate our students today for a better tomorrow.”

Student experiences varied widely from district to district and town to town, from packets sent home to a full slate of online lesson and instruction.

Part of the reason parents may want to return to school is because of their experience with distance learning this spring.

More than two-thirds (67.1 percent) of Boise parents said the quality of online learning was the most disappointing aspect of school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic.

About 21 percent of West Ada parents rated the effectiveness of remote middle school education this spring a “four” or less on a scale of zero to 10, where 10 equals most effective.

Last month, Gov. Brad Little said one of his top priorities is to have K-12 schools open in the fall. Although specific plans are still under development, Little said making saliva-based COVID-19 tests available to every schoolteacher could be a part of that strategy.

In West Ada, Exline shared the survey data with trustees and the committee that meets regularly to chart the district’s coronavirus response.

In Boise, the district administrators will consider the data, along with public health guidance, as they develop plans to return for the fall. Spokesman Dan Hollar said the staffers plan to present the findings to their school board some time this month.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra is also launching a statewide survey seeking parent’s input on devices and connectivity. Parents may take the survey online through June 19.

West Ada

Approximate student enrollment: 40,300

Number of parent survey response: About 10,100

(Partial survey results. Some questions and answers were shortened)

Question: Assuming that schools would be allowed to open in August, would you send your child to school?

  • Yes: 73.5 percent
  • No: 2.73 percent
  • Uncertain at this time: 23.6 percent.

Q: If school opens in the fall but the virus is still present and social distance and group size limits are in place, what learning environment is best for your child?

  • Blended learning (a combination attending school part-time in small groups and learning online at home): 68.1 percent.
  • Online learning with the assigned classroom teacher: 10 percent.
  • Students at home attend an actual classroom in session remotely and particulate virtually: 19 percent.
  • Did not answer: 2.9 percent.

Q: What safety measures would need to be in place for you to be comfortable sending your child to school (choose all that apply)?

  • Every child and staff member has to wear a mask: 22.3 percent.
  • Social distancing: 43.5 percent.
  • Handwashing stations easily accessible in classrooms at playgrounds: 79 percent.
  • Smaller lunch shifts: 36.5 percent.
  • Smaller break times, like recess and passing period: 21.1 percent.
  • No large gatherings like assemblies or pep rallies: 48.1 percent.
  • Daily temperature checks of students and staff: 38.8 percent.
  • Immediate seclusion of any signs of COVID-19: 53.9 percent.
  • No safety measures are needed if my child and family are healthy: 22.3 percent.
  • Did not respond: 1.7 percent.

Boise

Approximate student enrollment: 25,500

Number of parent survey responses: 7,376

(Partial survey results. Some questions and answers were shortened)

Q: If schools reopen in the fall, how comfortable are you today with sending your child back to school?

  • I will only send my child back to their traditional school if I believe all health guidelines will be strictly enforced: 14.9 percent
  • I will send my child back to their traditional school if I believe all reasonable precautions will be taken to ensure a safe and healthy environment: 40.8 percent.
  • I will send my child back to their traditional school in the fall if schools are open: 29.4 percent.
  • I am unsure at this point: 10.7 percent.

Q: What health guideline is most important to you?

  • It is important that all or some health guidelines are followed, including limit of 250 for large gatherings: 93.7 percent.
  • A minimum social distance of six feet was most important: 43 percent.
  • Hand sanitizer or hand washing available in each room was most important: 32.2 percent.

Q: What is the most important aspect to online learning to you?

  • An environment as close to traditional school as possible: 38.1 percent.
  • An environment that keeps students engaged but provides flexibility: 32 percent.
  • Personalized feedback and engagement: 14.1 percent.
  • Support for a child who is struggling: 7.6 percent.
Clark Corbin

About Clark Corbin

Reporter Clark Corbin has covered Idaho government and education for more than a decade. He’s followed every legislative session, gavel-to-gavel, since 2011. Clark is a co-host of the Extra Credit podcast with Kevin Richert published on Fridays. You can follow him on Twitter: @clarkcorbin. He can be reached by email at [email protected]

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