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ConVal shares reopening survey results

  • A ConVal School District bus.  FILE PHOTO

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 7/21/2020 12:52:27 PM

ConVal Superintendent Dr. Kimberly Rizzo Saunders shared the responses to a fall reopening survey that represented more than 60 percent of the district-wide student population on Friday. “We are really thrilled and feel we have great information for our reopening planning,” she said during Friday’s weekly update video, but cautioned that the list of guiding beliefs recently released by the School Board do not outline a reopening plan per se, and that families should expect a detailed plan regarding fall reopening by the first week of August.

Most families want to see in-person instruction, Rizzo Saunders said, but between 40 and 45 percent of survey respondents said they needed more information on what the reopening plan looked like before they decided to send their children back to school in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Seven percent of respondents said their students would not return to school in person regardless of the reopening plan.

When asked to what extent in-person learning should be implemented, respondents were split based on age group. 40 percent of answers pertaining to high school students supported a hybrid of face to face and remote instruction as most desirable, as compared to 33 and 27 percent of middle and elementary school respondents respectively. 38 to 33 percent of respondents favored in-person instruction following CDC guidelines. 24 percent of answers pertaining to elementary school students were for face to face instruction with no restrictions, as compared to 19 and 16 percent in the middle and high school. Remote learning only was favorable to 13 to 7 percent of the respondents.

More than 70 percent of respondents supported outdoor classrooms, and most respondents did not support redistributing students to different buildings to cut down class sizes, Rizzo Saunders said. Some supported outdoor classrooms if it reduced the need to temporarily reassign students to other buildings, she said.

Classroom hand sanitizing stations, robust building disinfection, a consistent hand washing schedule, staff and student temperature checks, a quarantine room for symptomatic students and having plans contingent on low district-wide COVID-19 case numbers were among the most popular of 17 precautions for preventing COVID-19 among all grade levels.

Student mask wearing garnered support of 57 percent of high school respondents and about 50 and 35 percent at the middle and elementary school levels respectively. Measures receiving less than 50 percent of the vote included precautions regarding meals, recess, and Plexiglas dividers. Responders commented that they wanted preventative measures like mask wearing, social distancing, and limited group sizes, Rizzo Saunders said, but “almost an equal amount of people” said that they did not want to see those preventative measures in place. 

Connecting to teachers was the most important reason for wanting in-person instruction, followed by connecting with friends and the quality of instruction, Rizzo Saunders said, with some variability between grade levels. 70 percent of responses representing elementary students said child supervision when parents returned to work was an important factor. Some parents requested more than a week’s warning if the school had to return to remote learning due to a virus spike in the region, with high school families requiring slightly less time to prepare on average, Rizzo Saunders said.

The school’s reopening committees are getting to the final stages of decisions, School Board member Janine Lesser said on Friday. “We’re not there yet. We will be there very soon, obviously, because that opening day is barreling toward us. But we’re still working on it,” she said, although the planning process has been intentional and thorough. Reopening schools for in-person instruction depend on community transmission rates, as well as factors like the functioning of HVAC systems, the efficacy of contact tracing and availability of COVID-19 testing, and the ability to properly organize and structure the school day to minimize risk, she said.

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

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