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Most Minot parents, teachers want in-person classes this fall

MDN File Photo Bel Air Elementary is pictured this spring. The Minot school board will decide next month whether students will attend classes face to face, entirely online, or some combination of the two when they return to school next month.

A majority of parents of Minot Public Schools students who were surveyed want their children to return to school full time next month in a face-to-face classroom setting. Face-to-face classes were called off in March and classes were held entirely online across the state due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The decision about whether to resume classes face to face, online, or via a hybrid model has been largely left up to individual school districts, which must each create a plan for instruction that must follow state guidelines for the North Dakota K-12 Smart Restart, be approved by the local school board, and published on the district’s website and filed with the State Department of Public Instruction. In Minot, a reintegration committee made up of of educators and others has been tasked with creating a draft proposal that will be approved by the school board next month. They sent out surveys last week to parents and teachers.

Some 66.3 percent of parents surveyed said they would send their children back to school in a face-to-face setting if safety measures were in place. Another 19.7 percent of parents said they were not sure if they would send their children to school. Another 14 percent of parents said they will not send their children back to school if classes are face to face, according to Assistant Superintendent Kim Slotsve. Of teachers surveyed, 46 percent said they would be comfortable returning to the classroom next month if in-person learning resumes and 23.5 percent said they would be very comfortable. Another 30.5 percent of teachers surveyed said they would not be comfortable going back to classes with face-to-face teaching.

According to information provided by Slotsve, 52.39 percent of the 3,951 parents who were surveyed chose full time, in person learning as their first choice when they were asked to rank their choice of three different back-to-school models. Face-to-face classes were the second choice of another 16.9 percent of parents and the third choice of 30.7 percent of parents.

Another 28.5 percent of parents surveyed said a hybrid model of occasional face-to-face classes and occasional distance learning was their top choice. The hybrid model was the second choice of 60.7 percent of parents and the third choice of 10.8 percent of parents.

Distance learning was the first choice of 19.2 percent of the parents surveyed, the second choice of 22.4 percent of parents, and the third choice of 58.5 percent of parents.

Of 440 teachers who were surveyed, 43.7 percent prefer in-person learning, 36.7 percent prefer a hybrid model, and 19.6 percent prefer distance learning.

Parents were also surveyed about the most important safety choices that the schools could take. Ninety-seven percent of parents listed enhanced cleaning in schools as very important and 96 percent said regularly scheduled handwashing will be very important. Another 88 percent of parents said staggering recess and lunch times is very important and following physical distancing is important.

Mask wearing was considered a less important safety measure by parents.Thirty-seven percent of parents surveyed said students should be required to wear masks when physical distancing is not possible and another 24.2 percent of parents said students should not have to wear masks unless they choose to do so. Another 20.6 percent of parents said students should be encouraged, but not required, to wear masks when physical distancing is not possible. Just 18 percent of parents said students should be required to wear masks at all times.

Of teachers and staff who were surveyed, 79.1 percent thought required masks will be an important safety measure and 82 percent thought optional masks would be important. Other measures deemed important were hand sanitizer, thought important by 99 percent of teachers; increased handwashing, thought important by 99.5 percent of teachers, along with daily disinfecting of commonly touched areas and surfaces, thought important by 99.5 percent of teachers. Some 94.5 percent of teachers thought visitors should be limited at schools and 95.7 percent think visitors should be screened for symptoms of illness. Some 82.7 percent think professional travel should be limited to help slow the spread of the virus and 73.8 percent think plexiglass barriers should be installed. Slightly more than half of the teachers – 52.3 percent – thought face shields should be worn.

The results of the survey will be used by a school reintegration committee as they develop a back to school plan. At a school board meeting earlier this month, the board indicated a draft proposal will be released by the end of this month, virtual public meetings with School Supt. Mark Vollmer are to be held next week, and the Minot school board will consider the plan at next month’s school board meeting.

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