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Kent ISD analyzing parent survey to guide return to school policies

Results will be released in coming weeks
Posted at 4:41 PM, Jun 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-17 08:32:14-04

GRAND RAPIDS — Families from the Kent Intermediate School district are weighing-in on what they think the upcoming school year should look like, in light of COVID-19.

Even though we won’t know what those results are just yet, we do know that people had a lot to say.

The deadline for completing that survey was June 10th.

The six-page survey sent out to parents a few weeks ago will help guide the districts plans for what school will look like based on three models: full-in person learning, online learning, or a combination of the two.

Kevin Polston, Superintendent of Godfrey-Lee Public Schools said they got approximately 33,000 responses from parents across Kent County.

It’s a number he’s proud of.

Polston said, “Anytime you get a response rate that high, that’s really significant and gives us great data to work from. “

Polston is also the Chairperson for the Kent Intermediate Superintendent Association Future Committee, which is tasked with coming up with the best ‘return to school’ plan this fall.

He said, “The confidence that parents have in a full, traditional, in-person model for learning is high, the confidence they have at this time for a full in person model for safety, is low.”

In fact, according to a recent survey from the Tri-county Alliance looking at the entire state of Michigan, 39% of families in the Grand Rapids Metropolitan area said they were ‘very comfortable’ with sending kids back to a traditional learning environment. Just 8% reported feeling ‘very uncomfortable.’

That’s why the group is working with Spectrum Health, the Kent County Health Department, business leaders, educators, and families to come up with ideas on how to do that safely.

Polston saiod, “Stakeholder feedback is critical in everything that schools do, in particular for parents as we know individually and collectively the impacts of COVID-19.”

Safety is the biggest concern and Grand Rapids Public Schools already knows what measures they’ll have in place.

John Helmhold, the Director of Communications for GRPS said they’ll have several ways to keep students, staff, and volunteers safe.

“We’ll be doing 6-foot social distancing, likely reduced capacity, much like restaurants are at 50% capacity right now. By doing reduced capacity that may require alternating certain days or certain times students would be in school, in-person, temperature checks every individual entering the building,“ Helmholt said.

Helmholdt said that if they do end up doing a combination of in-peron and online learning, this local survey will be key in seeing how distance learning worked this spring.

He said, “What parts they liked, what parts they didn’t like and how we could improve.”

According to that same Tri-County Alliance survey, only 34% percent of families in Grand Rapids would rate their distance learning experience as ‘excellent or good.’

Helmholdt said, “Unfortunately, there are a lot of families that don’t have reliable Internet, that don’t have multiple devices, that may not have the supports at home to help ensure that that teaching and learning continued at the pace that it should have. “

With no real timeline in sight for releasing those plans, districts are asking for patience.

Polston said “We’re going to build this together, this isn’t done in isolation, and the local voice of our parents and stakeholders critical to that process.”

Polston was also recently appointed to the Governors Return to School Advisory Council.