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Parents say they prefer return to in-person learning in massive Kent Co survey

30,000 parents were surveyed throughout the 20 school districts in the county
Posted at 4:41 PM, Jun 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-23 17:15:36-04

KENT COUNTY, Mich. — Parents overwhelmingly prefer a return to in-person learning come the fall, according to a recent survey taken within the county.

Administrators with the Kent Intermediate Superintendent's Association presented their findings in a press conference Tuesday morning.

“It's critical that we stay in close communication with our families and that we understand their perceptions and their needs,” Kevin Polston, Superintendent of Godfrey-Lee Public Schools, told FOX 17.

Polston sits on the Association's Future Learning Committee. The committee has been hard at work figuring out the best way to ease back into active learning come the fall.

"We're not going to have a perfect solution through this crisis and it's reasonable that whatever plan we start with in the fall, that as conditions change, we'll have to be flexible with how we carry out learning," Polston said.

30,000 parents within Kent County were surveyed on their feelings about in-person learning versus an online, at-home approach.

Almost 90 percent of the parents surveyed agreed that in-person learning provides a quality education. 62 percent of them feel at least somewhat confident that a return to in-person learning is safe.

“It's critical for our parents on the survey for us to find safe ways to return students... to learning while also being cognizant that about 20% of our families said we're not safe as things are right now," Polston said about the results.

"We need to hear more, and possibly we won't feel safe until there's a medical intervention such as a readily-available vaccine, or a cure that can quickly treat COVID-19.”

The survey found that African American and Hispanic parents were less confident than white parents about the safety of returning to in-person learning.

Online engagement was a challenge for parents filling out the survey. Results found that about 48 percent of parents felt their children were either somewhat disengaged or very disengaged during the pandemic.

The administrators also spoke about parents being concerned over their children's physical, social and emotional well-being during the state-mandated school closure.

“We're going to have to be flexible, rapidly prepared for... multiple iterations of our plans," Polston said Tuesday.

"It's critical that we stay in close communication with our families and that we understand their perceptions and their needs as valuable partners in their child's education.”

While these tentative plans have been laid out for the 20 school districts within Kent County, some of the specifics will depend on the 'Return to Learn Roadmap' that Governor Gretchen Whitmer is expected to release on June 30.

The KISA Future Committee is made up of the following individuals.

  • Kevin Polston, Superintendent, Godfrey-Lee Public Schools & KISA Future Committee Chair
  • Dr. Adam London, Administrative Health Officer, Kent County Health Department
  • Dr. Heidi Kattula, Superintendent, East Grand Rapids Public Schools
  • Dr. Ron Gorman, Interim Superintendent, Grand Rapids Public Schools
  • Rick Baker, President/CEO Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce
  • Tina Freese Decker, President/CEO Spectrum Health
  • Dr. Ron Gorman, Interim Superintendent, Grand Rapids Public Schools
  • Dallas Lenear, Chair, Black Impact Collective
  • Shantel VanderGalien, Regional Teacher of the Year, Wyoming Public Schools