Most School District of Tomahawk families, students support return to classrooms, survey finds
By Jalen Maki
Tomahawk Leader Editor
TOMAHAWK – A survey conducted by the School District of Tomahawk found that majorities of families and students wish to incorporate more in-person learning as the school year progresses, although results showed that a larger percentage of families support a return to classrooms compared to students.
The survey covered multiple topics, including how effectively staff could practice social distancing in an in-person learning environment and the social-emotional state of students.
In all, 414 4K-12 families responded to the survey as of March 2, while 444 students in grades 6 through 12 weighed in. 67 staff members responded to the survey.
A presentation given by District Administrator Terry Reynolds during the district’s Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, March 9 showed the survey’s findings.
The survey found that, among families, 78.3% supported a return to in-person learning, while 21.4% preferred to remain in the blended learning model the district is currently using, which utilizes a combination of virtual and in-person instruction.
Reynolds noted that the results made it clear that parents want students back in classrooms.
Although a majority of students said they would like to return to classrooms, that majority was smaller than that of adult respondents. 61.9% of students supported a return to four to five days of in-person learning. 43.7% said they would like to remain in the blended model.
“With the blended model, I think this indicates that it was successful,” Reynolds stated. “I think there were students that felt that they were learning and doing well in it, so that’s a good thing.”
“We know that bringing more students back into the school, there’s going to be some issues with social distancing, and certainly that was one question we wanted to ask the staff,” Reynolds said.
According to the presentation, 49.3% of staff said they could not maintain six feet of social distancing in any of their classes if students attended school four days a week without cohorting. 20.9% said they could maintain that distance in some classes, while 7.5% said all of their classes could have distancing between students. 22.4% of respondents were “non-professional,” Reynolds noted.
Those numbers changed when staff members were asked if they could maintain three feet of distance rather than six feet. 19.4% of staff said they could maintain that distance in all classes, 38.8% said they could do so in some classes, and 19.4% said it would not be possible in any classes. As with the previous question, 22.4% of respondents were non-professional.
One a one-to-five scale, 12 secondary staff members (17.9%) chose one, strongly agreeing with the statement, “If students are less than six feet apart in my classroom, office or other workspace, I would be able to maintain six feet of social distance from students and other staff.” Results were fairly evenly distributed among respondents, with the highest number of secondary staff members (18 total, 26.9%) strongly disagreeing with the statement.
Results showed a fairly wide gap between parents and students regarding the social-emotional state of students, with nearly 60% of parents saying they felt their students’ social-emotional state was “pretty typical” considering “their age and development,” while less than a third of students said they felt “as connected and supported socially and emotional” as they normally do.
Increase in failing grades; ‘Inconsistent levels of engagement’
According to the presentation, the middle and high schools have seen an increase in the overall number of students with one or more failing grades compared to the first semester of the 2019-2020 school year.
District staff reported “inconsistent levels of engagement from students on remote days in comparison to in-person days,” and less time in school lead to “inconsistent opportunities for academic intervention for students in need of additional support,” according to the presentation.
“Students at all academic levels experienced difficulty accessing additional academic support,” the presentation stated.
Among elementary families, 74% “understood the four days a week model when COVID-19 quarantines increased and more remote support was needed,” and 79% “indicated support for returning to five days of in-person learning and quarantines have decreased.”