Verona Area School District administrative building March 2020

The outside of the Verona Area School District administration building.

Asked how they’d like school to resume in the fall, most parents who responded to a Verona Area School District survey wanted their kids in class at least part of the time.

The district sent out the survey Tuesday, May 12, to all of its nearly 2,400 families, asking whether they’d prefer in-person, virtual or a blend, and received back 1,454 responses in English and 110 in Spanish, assistant superintendent for academic services Laurie Burgos told the school board at its Monday, May 18, meeting.

The district sent staff another survey May 13, asking what elements would be most important to them if school were to fully or partially reopen.

The surveys are one of the ways district staff, and the Fall 2020 Planning Committee, are weighing the options for what reopening schools in the fall of 2020 might look like.

Despite the statewide Safer at Home order being struck down on Wednesday, May 13 by the Wisconsin Supreme Court, the provision that prevented schools from reopening through the end of June 30 because of the COVID-19 pandemic is still in effect in Dane County.

“I want to re-emphasize that there are no plans in place at this time, but we’re really trying to gather all the data that we can to make sure we have options,” Burgos told the board.

Any reopening of the schools in the fall will likely be guided by restrictions put forth by the county, which launched its “Forward Dane” plan on Monday, May 18. The 14-page plan details when various aspects of life, business and society can reopen in the county, and at what capacity, based on nine health benchmarks related to the spread of the coronavirus.

Family surveys were divided into what age group of students families had at home: Pre-K, or elementary, middle and/or high schoolers.

Families of students who would be in Pre-K – which is optional – were asked whether they planned to send their students to school, assuming social distancing guidelines are practiced and hygiene requirements put in place. Families with children in grades K-12 asked what schooling option they’d be most comfortable with, given the choice.

“We have all opinions in our district,” Burgos said. “As you can imagine, we have some families saying, ‘I really don’t feel safe sending my child back to school until there’s a vaccine,’ and we have other folks who are asking us to reopen as we have every fall, and everything in between.”

The district will use the surveys as part of the evaluation process on what options it has for reopening in the fall.

If the district is able to offer full or partial in-person schooling, staff will need to design curricula to make up for gaps created by the supplemental virtual learning provided this year. If opening schools is not an option, staff will have to examine ways on how to make virtual learning a viable replacement to in-person learning, Burgos said.

“When we first put virtual learning plans into place, we were thinking that this was a short-term solution – we didn’t know at the beginning of March that we wouldn’t be back in school,” she said. “We also didn’t know that we wouldn’t know right now what fall would look like … if we are to open schools in the fall and need to have a virtual learning component, it needs to look different than what we’ve been doing so far.”

Pre-K and K-12

Just under 80% of Pre-K families said they’d send their children to school with public health adjustments being made, while 20% said they were unsure and a small percentage said they wouldn’t enroll their children, Burgos said.

Elementary school families preferred in-person schooling the most, at a rate of around 60%, Burgos said. Another 30% would prefer some type of blended learning, and the remaining 10% would want just online schooling, Burgos added.

A larger percentage of middle and high school families voted in favor of blended learning and virtual learning over in-person schooling, she said. The district had not made specific survey numbers available to the Press as of Tuesday morning.

Spanish-language survey

Families who responded to the Spanish-language version of the survey with Pre-K students had a larger percentage of those with doubts about sending their child to school, around 60%.

Burgos said those who do and don’t plan to enroll their children in early learning were evenly split.

Around 40% of Spanish-speaking elementary school parents said they’d prefer in-person schooling for their children, and a third of all respondents said they’d prefer virtual learning only, she said. Votes were fairly equal for Spanish-speaking families between all three types of learning at the middle school level, and high school families more heavily favored in-person learning, or a mix.

Staff survey

The district received 356 responses on the staff survey.

Respondents gave the highest priority to elements such as access to Personal Protective Equipment, hygiene requirements for students and staff and sanitation standards in district facilities to consider in reopening schools.

Email reporter Kimberly Wethal at kimberly.wethal@wcinet.com and follow her on Twitter @kimberly_wethal.