Nearly 58 percent of parents and students and 67 percent of school district employees say they feel comfortable returning to brick-and-mortar school buildings in the fall with safety protocols in place, according to a survey conducted this week.

Schools closed across the state in March because of the COVID-19 coronavirus, leaving students and teachers to pivot to remote “distance learning” for the remainder of the school year. As the nation, state and local community continue to work toward slowing the spread of the virus, Lake County Schools wanted to see how stakeholders felt about a fall return.

Two versions of a survey — one for employees, and another for parents and students — were distributed on June 7. The surveys closed at 5 p.m. today, June 12, one day after Gov. Ron DeSantis announced recommendations for local communities to consider as they finalize plans to reopen schools.

While stating that reopening schools is a locally driven decision, DeSantis also urged schools to “plan to maintain in-person learning, which is the best method of education delivery for students.”

In the six days that Lake’s survey was open, 10,647 people responded to the parent/student survey and another 2,933 responses were gathered from employees.

Highlights are as follows:

  • 55.7% of parents/students and 55.6% of employees say they are “very comfortable” or “comfortable” returning to school on Aug. 10, the date the School Board approved long before the onset of COVID-19.
  • 57.7% of parents/students and 67% of employees said they support a return to brick-and-mortar school buildings with safety protocols in place.
  • The top five safety measures parents/students and employees want to see implemented in schools include:
    • Increased access to soap and hand sanitizer
    • Increased cleaning of high-touch surfaces
    • Desks spaced apart when possible
    • Daily temperature checks for students and staff
    • Optional wearing of masks for students and staff
  • 51.8% of parents/students and 60.6% of employees said they could also support a rotating schedule — part distance learning and part face-to-face — if districts were required to return to school with fewer people in the buildings,
  • 49.5% of parents/students and 44.2% of employees said they feel “very comfortable” or “comfortable” with students riding school buses this fall.

Lake County Schools began the discussion about re-entry on Friday with a core group of people representing teachers, support staff and administrators. The group focused first on preliminary survey results and feedback collected from a teacher-originated social media page on the topic. Staff will use final survey results and other feedback from stakeholders, along with guidance from the Florida Department of Education, to draft a plan. The public will have an opportunity to review the draft and provide comments before a final version is published prior to the start of classes for the 2020-21 school year.


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