DELMAR — As Bethlehem Central prepares its plans to reopen schools next fall, it wants to listen to local families first.
Bethlehem Central reached out to district families through a survey earlier this year. In return, the district collected approximately 260 responses, from which the administration prepared a report that it released to district families on Monday, June 15.
Families expressed various concerns. More than a dozen issues were shared following four months of their students conducting studies from outside the classroom. Students from kindergarten to 12th grade commonly learned lessons from laptops at home, sometimes working side-by-side with a parent also working remotely from outside the office. That challenging scenario, in addition to obvious concerns about health, dominated responders’ concerns.
Physical health of students and staff (15.1 percent) topped the list of concerns, according to the district. The ability to social distance in school (14), lack of social learning/interaction (13.4), students not getting as much out of an online-only education (11), making all students wear masks (10.8) and mental health of students and staff (9.4) were listed by nearly two-thirds of responders.
“Parents expressed a strong desire for things to return to normal this fall,” the district stated within the conclusions section of the report. Omitted from the list were parents who expressed a return to normal. Families asking to fully reopen next school year outnumbered those who listed concerns over physical help 48 to 45. “However, there were more responses combined for alternate education proposals,” the district said.
An example of alternate education proposals was defined by the district as a staggered schedule that involved students to juggle a schedule involving in-person class days with online-only days. Fifty two respondents expressed interest in this option.
“Our number one concern with any reopening plan is how we keep our students and staff safe,” said district superintendent Jody Monroe. “We currently have teams of people reviewing the necessary training, personal protective equipment and health and safety requirements that we will need to have in place with a return to the classroom.”
Some parents painted a solemn picture as to how they envision a return to school, and they don’t like it. Some described a “police” or “military” state defined by too many regulations. Some of those parents asked the district for more information on how they could keep their kids home.
Monroe said the district does not know what to expect this fall, though the state requires that it receives the district’s plan to reopen by next month.
“Until it is determined that return to school is approved for September, we will continue to coordinate plans for every scenario that can ensure continuity of instruction for students in a safe environment,” said Monroe. “Like you, we would like to see our students return to the same warm, welcoming schools they left behind. And they will.”