The majority of families Manteca Unified surveyed to help the school board decide on how school should reopen on Aug. 6 wanted nothing to do with options that strayed from school schedules in place prior to the COVID-19 pandemic closing campuses in March.
The 6,680 unique responses from families that represented 10,200 students or 42 percent of the districtwide enrollment of 24,000 were in stark contrast to 1,414 teachers, support staff and administrators that were surveyed. The majority of teachers and support staff preferred either having staggered morning and afternoon sessions to split the student body in half or a distance learning model. Administrators were split 50-50 between two options that retained the traditional school day hours and ones that involved staggered sessions or distance learning,
The two options that did not involve altering school days involved an option with wellness practices dictated by COVID-19 and another that had no health-related modifications but required a waiver.
The threshold of comfort of being in classrooms without social distancing and other COVID-19 protocols was much higher for parents of students than it was for the teachers who will be teaching them.
Altogether there were four choices offered of which respondents could only pick one.
The no change with a waiver option was the No. 1 choice of families at 35.76 percent while it was dead last for teachers at 22 percent. Administrators viewed the no change with waivers required as an even worse option than the teachers with only 17 percent favoring such a move.
Teachers favored the staggered sessions as No. 1 at 31 percent as did administrators at 47 percent, and support staff at 37 percent. The staggered session option tied with the usual school schedule wedded with COVID-19 wellness protocols was the second choice for families at 25.34 percent.
The biggest fans of having the coming school year that starts in 40 days as online only were teachers at 23 percent while administrators were the least supportive group at 7 percent. Families favoring online learning came in at 13.55 percent.
The survey results underscore the challenges district officials have in getting 32 school campuses prepped, protocols in place, and making sure students and faculty are not only kept as safe as possible but are comfortable with the learning environment.
The fact 78 percent of the teachers preferred options that treated COVID-19 as a clear threat in school settings as opposed to 64 percent of the families means the group likely to be the least comfortable with whatever plan the district will have in place 5 ½ weeks to implement the board’s directive of the pre-pandemic school schedules with social distancing and other protocols in place are teachers.
Teachers essentially will be the frontline effort that makes sure the protocols are followed including social distancing and extensive use of hand sanitization for an average of 30 students each.
In the debate leading up to the 5-2 board decision to go with a standard school day with social distancing in place the health and safety of the students and staff dominated the discussion.
One of the prevailing arguments against going with the staggered option was the concern there would not be enough funds to provide bus services to nearly 1,500 rural students and those that live beyond the walking distance limits from school.
The impacts on family schedules was touched upon as well including how a staggered session could undermine the education of older students who may be forced to watch younger siblings in households where the parent(s) work hours would be difficult to adjust.
The survey also indicated 1,350 families were interested in switching to an internet academy.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email firstname.lastname@example.org