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Survey: Stonington parents want return to in-person instruction, teachers do not

Stonington — While 60% of families here want their children to return to more in-person instruction, more than 85% of teachers want to remain in the current hybrid mode for the remainder of the school year.

Those are some of the results of a survey sent to staff and parents to gauge their interest in returning to more in-person instruction amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Board of Education is scheduled Wednesday night to discuss the survey results and Superintendent of Schools Van Riley's recommendation that students in kindergarten and grades 1, 6 and 9 return to four-day a week in-school instruction beginning March 15. The board meets virtually at 7 p.m.

The recommendation and survey results also come as East Lyme, which has a school system similar in size to Stonington's, announced Monday that all students in kindergarten through 12th grade will have returned to four-day-a-week, in-person instruction by the end of the month and five-day-a-week instruction by April 5. It is unknown if Riley will present a modified recommendation to the board Wednesday night.

Since the beginning of school last September, students here have attended school in person two days a week and learned remotely three days a week. The district has shifted to all virtual learning after holiday breaks and during storms. As of Feb. 19, there had been 47 positive COVID-19 cases among students and 19 among staff. The families of 478 students, or 22.6%, have opted for all virtual learning instead of hybrid instruction.

Over the past few weeks, some parents have pressed the school board to return students and teachers to the classroom full time. They say remote and hybrid learning have led to students not being engaged in learning, being left behind academically and increased cases of anxiety, depression, eating disorders and other problems.

Parent survey results

The parent survey had to be retaken last week because the results of the first survey were skewed after it was posted on social media and more votes were cast than there are families.

The revised results show that 59.5% of parents prefer that students return for four or five days a week of in-person instruction while 40.5% prefer to remain in the current hybrid/virtual learning mode. Parents prefer the return to more in-person instruction even if the plan does not fully meet current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, which call for precautions such as 6 feet of social distancing.   

In summarizing the results, Riley wrote that while the majority of parents favor a return to four to five days of in-person instruction, it is clear the school district also should keep the hybrid and virtual learning options available to students for the remainder of the school year, which ends in June.

Deans Mill School had the most parents — 71.1% — wanting to return to school with four or five days of in-person instruction.

But at the high school, parents were split 51%-49% in favor of returning to four or five days of in-person instruction.

At West Vine Street school, 56.5% favored a return to four or five days of in-person instruction, while 43.5% favor a hybrid/distance learning option. At Stonington Middle School, 58.9% of parents support four or five days of in-person instruction and 41.1% favor a hybrid/distance option.

Staff survey results

Board of Education Chairman Frank Todisco pointed out the survey of teachers and staff was conducted a few days before Gov. Ned Lamont announced last week that teachers and other school staff would be able to begin signing up to receive the COVID-19 vaccine beginning this week. It is unclear if that information would have changed the results.

If teachers here are able to begin getting the first of their two vaccine doses over the next two weeks, they would not be fully vaccinated until the beginning to middle of April. It also takes two weeks after that to be fully immunized. It is also unknown how many teachers would decline to be vaccinated.

At Deans Mill School, 85% of teachers and 82% of other staff prefer to remain in the current hybrid mode of instruction. If the hybrid mode were discontinued, 50% of teachers and 71% of other staff would prefer a full distance learning work assignment to returning in person to school.

At West Vine Street School, 84% of teachers and 74% of other staff prefer to remain in the current hybrid mode of instruction. If the hybrid mode were discontinued, 57% of teachers and 53% of other staff would prefer full distance learning over returning in person to school.

At Stonington Middle School, 87% of teachers and 79% of other staff prefer to remain in the hybrid mode. If that were discontinued, 65% of teachers and 55% of other staff would prefer full distance learning over returning to in-person instruction.

At Stonington High School, 87% of teachers and 75% of other staff prefer to remain in the hybrid mode. If that were discontinued, 65% of teachers and 57% of other staff would prefer full distance learning over returning in person to school.

j.wojtas@theday.com 

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