I would like to thank all who participated in our recent parent feedback “Return to School” survey. The 978 survey responses are contributing to our planning for the 2020-2021 school year. Our desire is to open our schools this fall while providing a safe and healthy learning environment for all St. James R-I students.
What did we learn? Over 90% of our responding parents have a strong desire for students to return to school and experience a sense of normalcy once again. However, there are still reservations and questions surrounding what a full opening would look like. The majority of respondents had some level of comfort with sending their students back in the fall. At the time of the closing of the survey (June 18), 54% of respondents indicated they were comfortable with minimal or no concerns about sending their students to school in the fall. Thirty-six percent of the respondents indicated they were comfortable with some concerns. A little under 10% of respondents indicated they were not comfortable sending their students back to school in the fall.
The top five concerns and suggestions of responding parents were: 1) increased cleaning, disinfecting and sanitizing in work spaces and classrooms, 2) availability of cleaning/sanitizing supplies to employees, 3) increased health hygiene routines by students and staff at school, 4) close monitoring and tracking of symptoms, illness and exposure, and 5) symptom checks of employees required before entering school/workplace.
When asked which instructional scenario parents felt most comfortable with for their child if social distancing in schools is required, 60% preferred “in-person classes” while 30% preferred a blended approach with some in-person and some online instruction. 10% of respondents indicated they would prefer only online instruction. One of the challenges in rural Missouri is the availability of reliable internet access for students at home. According to the responses of our survey, 75% of students have reliable internet connection at home, with another 16% saying they have some internet connection at home. Nine percent of respondents indicated they had no internet connection at home. One concern about online learning is the level of difficulty and effectiveness in teaching younger students. Ninety-five percent of the respondents to this survey indicated they think it is very important for younger students to learn in-person at school.
Another social distancing challenge exists in the area of transportation. If social distancing recommendations are still in place and the St. James R-I School District could modify transportation services to limit the number of students on a bus, 78% of respondents indicated they would feel comfortable with their child riding a bus, with 22% indicating they would not be comfortable. When asked if parents would be able/willing to drive their child to/from school if necessary, 82% said “yes” and 18% said “no”.
The Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) has not yet made an official determination about fall sports and activities. Ninety-two percent of St. James respondents indicated they were comfortable allowing their child to participate in athletics and activities in the fall.
How are we responding? Based upon the current environment and the feedback provided by parents, staff members, the Phelps/Maries County Health Department, healthcare professionals throughout the region, and the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, St. James R-I administrators are presently developing a plan to propose to our parents, staff, and community in late July or early August.