School district surveys parents about online learning; uncertain what next school year might look like

NORTH LOGAN – As the school year came to an end, the Cache County School District surveyed parents, teachers and students about their experiences with online, at-home learning. They asked how well the technology worked, if too much or too little homework was assigned, how well did teachers contact and communicate with their students. They also wanted to know what worked well, in case another situation arises when at-home learning will need to be instituted again.

“We got excellent feedback,” says Cache County School District Chief Academic Officer Tim Smith. “Overall, it was positive that we had done a pretty good job in a short amount of time turning a face-to-face environment to an online environment. But we also got some great feedback from parents on what had been difficult and what we could improve on.”

Smith says, in most cases, the communication between parents and schools was sufficient, but there were some instances where that could be better. Some teachers pushed out assignments more than they were interacting with their students, and Smith says those teachers who connected frequently (via video conference technology, short video messages, or email) received better feedback.

“We actually held some focus groups, too. Those were very helpful because we were able to dialogue with some parents and they could share with us some different experiences that they had.”

When it came to the end of the year for the graduating seniors, Smith admits it wasn’t an ideal send off, but he is proud of how well they handled it and how the community rallied to support the students.

“Our schools and our student leadership groups worked really hard to make this a special experience for our seniors. We heard a lot of comments from seniors and their families that there were some things about how graduation was done this year that they enjoyed better than the traditional way that we have done graduation.

“Overall, the idea was to celebrate the accomplishment of these students who have been with us for 13 years and make them feel like this was an important achievement in their lives.”

While the start of the 2020-2021 school year is more than two months away, there is a lot of uncertainty about what the next school year might look like. With a recent spike in cases and the possibility of Cache County still being in the Yellow, or low risk stage, gatherings of 50 people or more are discouraged, which makes operating a school nearly impossible.

“We’re hoping that we get to open school in the Green (phase), and that we can proceed with school as normal. We did cover with our administrators a lot of contingency plans should we start back to school in a yellow phase, which we haven’t done for a significant period of time. If we did that, that would include some protocols.”

Smith stresses the importance of good hygiene among students and parents, and that it is absolutely essential that students, teachers and staffers all stay home if they start to feel ill.

Social distancing is a little difficult in a school environment. But we will definitely do some things with regard to that that we can do. But there is a lot that is difficult in a school setting.”

Various school sports and extra-curricular activities have resumed throughout the district during this current Yellow phase (with certain restrictions), and Smith says it could continue to affect other activities in the fall.

“We are doing symptom checking when team members show up for practice. We are locking the locker rooms, having kids transport their clothing back and forth, making sure we’re careful how we distribute food and water, those kinds of things. Those practices would continue in the fall.

“But we also recognize that sports activities are high contact activities. There are some things that we have a difficult time mitigating.”

Smith says youth camps and scrimmages have been postponed for a few weeks until the current rate of infections in Cache County starts to subside. Smith asks for the public’s help to slow the spread of the coronavirus. He says the more precautions everyone takes now, the faster we can get back to participating in the activities that we all enjoy.

“We love having the kids in the schools,” Smith proclaims. “We love having the extra-curricular activities. That’s what we do best. We hope we can get back to that normal opportunity to provide a face-to-face education for those kids and provide those extra-curricular activities. We just need to work together as a community to accomplish that.”

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