While the majority of parents and employees in the Alpine School District were satisfied with how the transition to online learning in March was handled, they are mostly against requiring students to wear masks when classes return in the fall, according to a recently-released district survey.
Most parents and employees were in favor of safety measures such as hand sanitizer and frequent handwashing. However, only 10% of parents and 11.46% of employees said that face coverings and masks should be used.
More than 16,000 parents and 2,500 employees completed the district’s survey, sent out in late June to gauge reactions to the transition to online learning and to anticipate the community’s opinions about the upcoming school year.
“We were all thrown into his unknown of school dismissal and online learning, and we are just really proud of our teachers and our students and our parents, and the way they work together, and even though it wasn’t ideal, everyone worked as hard as they could to make sure that learning still happened for our students during that time,” said David Stephenson, a spokesman for the district.
He said the district is happy with parents and employees’ satisfaction with the transition.
“We are very pleased with how people were satisfied with the community, the efforts that we made to get computers into the hands of students,” Stephenson said. “But there are also a lot of things we learned, so that is why we wanted to put the survey out, to get a feel for how parents felt.”
Some of those lessons included discovering how difficult it was for families that had a single computer that multiple students were using.
About 57% of students spent between 1.5 to three hours a day on coursework. Parents were generally satisfied with that outcome, with 57% answering that that time to spend on coursework was “just right.”
The survey showed that 73.76% of parents intend to have their students return to school, while 3% wouldn’t have their students attend, and 23.24% were undecided.
About 90.5% of employees said they plan to return to school, 1.59% said they wouldn’t, and 7.9% were undecided.
The district reopened its retirement declaration window due to COVID-19 concerns. The window, which closes in in March, was reopened in June. Stephenson said 10 additional employees chose to retire during the June window.
Families will declare in late July if they intend to have their student educated through face-to-face learning or will use online learning. Secondary school students can choose to take some classes in person and some online through the district’s existing East Shore Online program.
The district expects that up to 20% of students will choose to learn online.
Under a mandate from Gov. Gary Herbert, students and employees will be required to wear face masks at school. Exceptions will be made for some classes such as physical education, choir and band.
The district is still drafting a plan for special education students.
If face masks were only suggested, not required, 37.81% of the district’s employees said they’d wear one, 37.63% said they’d maybe wear one and 2.56% said they wouldn’t wear one, according to the survey.
Stephenson said the district recognizes that masks are seen as controversial within the community and hopes that the number of new COVID-19 cases will decline so that masks won’t be required. If the governor adjusts his mandate, Stephenson said the district will work with the Utah County Health Department to decide on mask use and if they will be required in its schools.
The district has outlined its plan and created a question and answer page about the new school year at http://alpineschools.org/returntolearn. The page includes information on the grab and go lunch format, which types of masks students can wear and when students will be required to wear masks at school.
Sick students will be placed in a quarantine area until a parent picks them up. The district is requesting parents to keep sick children at home.
If a student is diagnosed to COVID-19, the district will work with the Utah County Health Department to make decisions on potential school closures on a case-by-case basis. Classes will shift to at-home, online learning if a school is closed.
The question and answer page was developed based on comments the district received about the new school year. The Return to Learn website will be updated as new information is available.
“Getting back to school with COVID-19 is like having a target that keeps moving around,” Stephenson said.