School update on reopening work and survey results (Updated)

by beth on July 21, 2020

Post image for School update on reopening work and survey results (Updated)

Above: Of those who responded to a survey in early June, over 55% preferred a hybrid model that sends kids to school every week on alternating days. (image cropped from data posted by district)

The latest “reopening” update from Northborough and Southborough Public Schools shared results from recent family surveys.

Responses indicated that most parents would be willing to send children to school if it reopens fully, but many were undecided, and some unwilling. Significantly more stated willingness to participate in a hybrid model. For transportation, just under half of respondents would use the school bus to transport kids.

Results shared in the Friday email from Superintendent Gregory Martineau didn’t break out responses by towns or grade level.

Data from the most recent survey showed 2,644 responses. That represents about 60% of students in the three combined districts.*

The July survey asked parents to indicate whether or not they would allow their children to participate in 100% in person learning or a hybrid model with only half the students in the school at a time. The school shared the results in four charts with tables, which I distilled to the following two (click to enlarge):

survey responses - participation in school survey responses - transportation to and from school

Hybrid models survey results - familiesThe email also included results from an early June survey on hybrid learning models. The district was seeking feedback on how the school should schedule split attendance. Parents and students were asked to state a preference for alternating days or alternating weeks. According to the response, 55.6% preferred alternating between a day at home and a day of remote learning. (See image right.)

Only 1,711 responses were tallied for that survey, representing about 39% of the district.* The survey didn’t gauge how important selections were to respondents. It did encourage participants to explain why they supported the model they selected and share other important feedback. The results shared in the district’s email didn’t summarize those written responses.

[Editor’s Note: A reader asked me to encourage readers to comment on the hybrid model choices. I’ll kick that off with my personal comment below.] 

The update issued on Friday evening noted that the district expects to have its reopening model to share the week of August 2nd. In the meantime, below is their update on efforts, including a link to a Table of Contents for the reopening plan. (The TOC gives a snapshot of all of the details that the district has to work out in order to make any kind of reopening possible.)

I want to thank families for completing the Fall School Reopening survey. These data are essential as we continue to develop our District’s reopening plans. In full transparency, I have included a summary of the survey results, as well as the summary of results of the 2020-2021 Fall Reopening: Hybrid Models survey. I apologize for the number of surveys, however, it is essential that we hear from all stakeholders.

As we plan for reopening, our work centers around seven principles, with the health and safety of our faculty, staff, students, and families being the most important. The seven principles are:

  • Prioritize the physical, social, and emotional well-being of the school community, students, families, faculty, and staff
  • Foster engaging learning opportunities for all students
  • Address the needs of students who are English learners and students with disabilities
  • Provide additional support to our most vulnerable student populations
  • Provide for adaptability and coherence in how we deliver instruction to respond to changing health metrics
  • Address the professional learning of our faculty and staff
  • Attend to the experiences and needs of all stakeholders by providing opportunities for feedback and reflection

Our work this week continued to focus on planning for three reopening models: in-person, hybrid, and remote. We’ve made significant progress and will share a reopening plan with families during the week of August 2nd. We continue to rely on the medical experts as we develop our District’s plans and are carefully monitoring the health data. We will be prepared to pivot if circumstances change.

I would like to share with the community the District’s Reopening Guide Table of Contents, as it will provide an overview of what the final plan will include. Again, I appreciate your patience and understanding as we work to prepare for launching the 2020-2021 academic year.

*Updated (7/22/20 2:46 pm): Originally, my figures for survey participation were a little higher because my enrollment figures were lower (see original language below). Since writing the post, the Superintendent replied to an email I sent asking for the combined enrollment for next year. He lists that as 4,375. That lowers survey participation from 64% and 41% to 60% and 39%.

The Superintendent’s enrollment reports posted for school committee meetings in June project enrollment for the next school year as 4,136 students (1,178 in Southborough K-8, 1,548 in Northborough K-8, and  1,410 in Algonquin Regional High School). The survey asked parents to complete one survey per student in the schools.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 beth July 21, 2020 at 10:52 AM

I initially favored alternating weeks, worrying that the odd alternating day schedule would be too disruptive for my kids. My 7th and 9th grade children convinced me to respond otherwise.

My kids strongly believe that alternating days would work better for them. They think it will be more helpful to see teachers every other day. (If they wait a week, the teacher will likely be onto another topic by the time they are back in class.) They also think it will be easier to get into a groove for alternating days. They think that a full week off will mean every week they are back in school is harder to adjust to (like coming back from vacation.)

Still, while I noted the preference and why on the survey – the impact of which model is selected is likely less important to my families than many other families in the district.

I’m in the fortunate position of not having to worry about its impact on my work. (I work from home and my kids are old enough to be largely responsible for their own remote learning.)

I keep wondering what the hybrid models mean for other working parents that can’t say the same.

I encourage you to share your thoughts. Obviously, neither model is ideal. But which model would make balancing your work and family more difficult?

Reply

2 Tim Martel July 21, 2020 at 2:03 PM

I am very hopeful that a data-driven approach will be adopted rather than one driven by fear alone.

We are rapidly approaching the point where kids will be severely impacted by ongoing isolation from their peer group, not to mention the impediments to learning that arise from a virtual environment. Let’s not let the cure be worse than the disease.

I greatly encourage the school board to adopt the guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics, and push strongly for 100% in-person education this Fall.

Link: https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/06/29/884638999/u-s-pediatricians-call-for-in-person-school-this-fall

[The AAP cites “mounting evidence” that transmission of the coronavirus by young children is uncommon, partly because they are less likely to contract it in the first place.
On the other hand, the AAP argues that based on the nation’s experience this spring, remote learning is likely to result in severe learning loss and increased social isolation.
Social isolation, in turn, can breed serious social, emotional and health issues]

Reply

3 beth July 21, 2020 at 4:10 PM

Since you’re linking to news about AAP’s statement, I want to note that they since clarified it:

making clear that while in-person school provides crucial benefits to children, “Public health agencies must make recommendations based on evidence, not politics.” The statement also said that “science and community circumstances must guide decision-making.”

They still strongly urge for in person schooling, but make it clear that safety must come first and it depends on how under control virus spread is in the community. Let’s hope our community can keep the numbers down this summer.

Reply

4 beth July 22, 2020 at 2:41 PM

Tim Martel asked me to share a few graphs on the Covid-19 situation in our state. (His cited source for the data was https://covidtracking.com/data/us-daily).
The graphs show the declines in cases requiring hospitalization, ICU, and ventilators. The data is based on “current” cases, not cumulative cases. You can look at them here.

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5 Ricky July 21, 2020 at 10:18 PM

If our town continues to see low case numbers then we absolutely should start with 100% in person schooling but be quickly prepared to switch to hybrid or remote learning if an outbreak starts. I also worry about the emotional impact on our kids and my personal ability to provide proper learning at home.

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6 Diane Romm July 22, 2020 at 8:14 AM

Does anyone know whether the choices that were voted on (every other day or every other week) were recommended by public health officials? The priority needs to be safety — safety for the kids, the teachers and their families, and safety for the students’ families, etc.. If one approach would be considered safer than the other, then that one should have priority,

Both of my children preferred the every other week option, as did our entire family. I can’t imagine the teachers alternating classes every other day! And I can’t imagine sending my kids off every other day. But obviously there are a lot of factors, like the work schedule of the parents.

As a small community, it would be wonderful if we could think outside of the box and make something happen. A lot of creative ideas emerged to help students celebrate their graduations this past May and June.

It seems like we are all waiting, and waiting, and waiting…

Reply

7 beth July 22, 2020 at 9:34 AM

I don’t know the answer to your question – just that the Superintendent’s message includes, “We continue to rely on the medical experts as we develop our District’s plans and are carefully monitoring the health data. We will be prepared to pivot if circumstances change.”

Reply

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