District Reviews Feedback from Parent Survey
In mid-July, the Washingtonville CSD Re-entry Task Force shared a parent survey to gather feedback that would help guide the district’s development of a school re-entry plan. While all New York state school districts must adhere to the guidelines set forth by the NYS Department of Health and the state, parental feedback is extremely important because it provides school leaders with a better idea of how parents feel about virtual learning vs in-person learning or a hybrid of the two, and helps them as they begin to create school and busing schedules, and other information needed to develop reopening plans.
“We believe that the community’s voice will strengthen our re-entry plan,” explains Superintendent Dr. Larry Washington. “We are being held to many guidelines in order to bring our students back, but we also want to make sure that we’ve given a thoughtful look at how our parents feel.”
What We Learned from the Parent Feedback
School Re-Entry Options
Several of the questions in the most recent parent survey were aimed at learning how parents felt about different reopening scenarios. Of the 1,818 responses, this is what the district has learned:
- 50.1% of people agree that school should return to a daily, full-day schedule in the fall while following all required protocols set forth by the DOH, while 37.2% disagree and 12.8% remain neutral.
- 35.3% of survey participants agree in-person school should resume in September, with a "Split Schedule" where HALF of the students attend school on any given day and the other HALF of students learns remotely from home. Also, if a split schedule were to be implemented, the survey showed that nearly 72% of the participants would prefer it if their children were on a similar schedule.
- Additionally, when asked if school should be fully remote in the fall 60.9% of survey participants disagreed and strongly disagreed, while 25.7% agreed and 13.8 remained neutral. However, if that’s the plan that must be instituted in the fall or later in the year due to a change in the county’s Reopening Phases (as outlined by NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo), the survey shows that less than 40% of students will need technology issued to them from the district and only about 2% of participants would need assistance with internet access at their residence.
“We have begun working closely with our Technology Department to ensure we are prepared to provide the necessary technology to keep our students so they can stay connected to the learning environment,” adds Dr. Washington.
Student and Staff Safety
The Task Force also asked parents to rate several different scheduling scenarios for the fall that considers the potential need for physical distancing. These scenarios would have some students learning in school while others were at home. Here are the results:
Within the NYS DOH guidelines, it states that students and staff must wear a face mask (covering both nose and mouth) at all times that six feet of distance between individuals can’t be maintained. The guidance also states that masks may be removed for eating, instruction and for brief breaks as long as physical distance remains in effect. There have been reports in the media and concerns in education circles that younger children might be unable to keep their mask on for lengthy periods of time during the school day. However, the WCSD survey reveals that nearly 62% of surveyed participants said they agree or strongly agree that their children are comfortable wearing a mask. Additionally, 90% of parents said their children already own masks. Nonetheless, the district will have a supply of masks available for students and staff should they forget their mask, it gets soiled during the day, or it gets lost.
School district busing was another topic on the parent survey. DOH guidelines state that districts should, as much as possible, adhere to social distancing protocols on school buses. This could prove to be extremely difficult if buses are filled to capacity, however. When asked if parents were comfortable sending their children to school on a bus with regular, full capacity vs a bus with reduced volume, the results showed that nearly 63% of parents would prefer a reduced volume bus ride for their students. Yet nearly 83% of respondents stated they’d be driving their children to school. The Task Force is already looking into creating more robust drop-off and pick-up practices to accommodate potential increase in non-bus traffic to school during the beginning and end of the school day.
Mental Health Services
The survey also revealed the district will need to increase its efforts to connect students with its mental health services as well as community-based mental health resources. This comes from survey data that shows 60% of participants said they have noticed a negative change in their child’s emotional and/or behavioral health since the district closure in March. Increased anxiety, fear and sadness as well as withdrawal and aggression/defiance being among the top behavior changes.
Extracurricular Activities & Athletics
At the time this survey was shared with parents, information from NYSPHSAA about delaying the start of the fall athletic season and the possibility of a condensed athletic season for the 2020-21 school year was not available. Nonetheless, the survey did show us that about 40% of survey takers are supportive of extracurricular activities and athletics resuming. On the other hand, nearly 30% of respondents said they had reservations about such activities resuming and 14% would not allow their children to participate. (This question does not apply to 16.3%.)
In regard to fan attendance at such activities, 35.6% feel the events should be open to the public; 29.4% feel only parents of players should be able to attend events; and 16.3% feel no fans should be in attendance. (This question does not apply to 18.7%.)
Final Thoughts About Re-entry
When survey participants were asked to consider the current situation of the region--being placed in Phase 4--in relation to their comfort level of their children physically returning to school in the fall, the responses were in favor of students returning--74.1% of participants said they feel very comfortable, comfortable or somewhat comfortable.
“The Task Force and school administration have been reviewing this feedback along with opening guidelines from the State Education Department and the Department of Health to help them develop the re-entry plans for Washingtonville,” states Dr. Washington. “We are able to fully open school as long as we can adhere to the physical distancing guidelines. Given our space constraints, we might be in a better position to offer a hybrid plan. We are required to submit our plans, which includes a layout for a full in-person return to school, a fully virtual return to school, or a hybrid of the two options, to the state by July 31. These plans along with other materials and resources will be on our webpage by the end of July.”
Residents who have additional questions or concerns, should feel free to contact the district at email@example.com.