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Survey shows parents’ thoughts on school

Niles district looks at how families want to continue learning

NILES — As the Niles City School district, like others, works toward a restart plan for the fall, a survey to gauge parents’ feelings about potential back-to-school plans returned mixed results.

The survey, devised by the district’s restart school committee, asked parents questions about their willingness to send students back to school, their children’s ability to wear masks, and the family’s access to resources like transportation and technology.

“We really wanted their opinion on how comfortable people were sending their children back,” Superintendent Ann Marie Thigpen said. “We wanted to also ask them what from last year did they wish we did a little better.”

The survey showed just more than 70 percent of parents plan to send their children back to school in the fall, while 20 percent remain undecided and just less than 10 percent do not want to send children back.

About 49 percent of parents said their children would be capable of wearing a mask at school, while about 24 percent said their child could not and 26 percent said “maybe.”

The survey also touched on issues of need.

More than 44 percent of parents surveyed said they would need transportation for their students to attend in-person classes if busing was not available.

Almost 59 percent of parents said if children were doing split in-person and at-home learning, they have a plan for child care, while 28 percent said they didn’t have child care and 13 percent were unsure.

About 29 percent of parents said they would need district-issued technology to complete online lessons, though almost all respondents — 94 percent — said they had internet access.

“The small percent, that is an issue we need to take care of as a district,” Thigpen said of internet access. “If we go to some sort of blended or remote learning, we need to provide the tools for that to be able to work.”

When offered three options for schooling next fall — full in-person classes with safety precautions in place, alternating in-person and at-home days, or full remote teaching — 422 parents said they would prefer in-person classes, 181 chose alternating days and 141 preferred virtual classes.

“Depending on what happens, we could have a mix of all three of those for the 2020-21 school year,” Thigpen said. She said the district’s final decision may be out of its hands, as it must follow state mandates. Gov. Mike DeWine on Thursday gave guidance for the reopening of schools, but the COVID-19 climate is ever-changing.

Thigpen said the district is asking everyone to be patient and understanding of the fluidity of the situation.

The district has about 2,100 children enrolled. Responses from 759 parents account for about 1,270 of those children — what Thigpen said was a good representation of the students. The survey was available on the district’s website and Facebook, and parents were made aware with a districtwide all-call.

“We were just thrilled by the number of parents who responded,” Thigpen said. “It took less than five minutes, but it really gave us a lot of good data.”

The Niles restart school committee is comprised of every classified administrator, including in departments like maintenance, cafeteria, and transportation. A small team from each department and teachers from each building give input to administrators, and three to five parents represent each building.

“Oftentimes, you just get focused on maybe what your department wants to focus on,” Thigpen said. “As a group, we need to think of the whole picture, we need to think of the child’s day.”

avugrincic@tribtoday.com

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