Eagle County Schools to host virtual public meetings on back-to-school concerns | VailDaily.com

Eagle County Schools to host virtual public meetings on back-to-school concerns

Meetings will be Thursday and Friday evening from 5 to 7 p.m.

Eagle County Schools continues to seek input from parents and staff members on the return of school in August.
Daily file photo

Following a survey that received 3,361 responses, Eagle County Schools’ latest initiative to collect input from community members and gather questions related to returning to school in August will be two virtual public meetings on Thursday and Friday.

An outline of frequently asked questions will be developed and shared with the community following the meetings. The first meeting will be in English on Thursday, June 25, from 5 to 7 p.m. The second meeting will include support for Spanish interpretation on Friday, June 26, from 5 to 7 p.m. Instructions to join the meetings will be posted on the district’s homepage at eagleschools.net and shared on social media once available.

“These meetings continue our process of seeking community input regarding our planning to return to school in August,” Superintendent Philip Qualman said in a news release. “We started with a survey that went to over 8,000 parents and staff members, which gave us many insights into their sentiment around the various issues we face. We hope these meetings add even more clarity.”

On June 5, the school district emailed surveys in English and Spanish to 8,160 parents and staff members. The survey closed on June 12 with 3,361 responses — 3,025 in English and 336 in Spanish. The district noted that many of the Latino families in the district are bilingual and may have responded to the English survey.

According to the survey results:

  • About 70% of respondents are comfortable returning to school if it is safe to do so. However, about 30% of respondents voiced they would not be comfortable.
  • Most parents and staff are willing to follow expected health and safety guidelines, including daily screenings and potentially wearing masks.
  • A majority of respondents prefer the district return to five-day, in-person instruction. If the district must do a hybrid model, the A/B and AA/BB schedules were equally ranked, with very little support for half-days.
  • District staff asked for professional development to feel ready should they need to transition their classroom to be online or balance a hybrid model.
  • The crisis response remote learning after local schools closed in March was acceptable given the circumstances, respondents said, but not sustainable. Parents offered suggestions to make remote learning better (should it be necessary).

Of the survey responses, 2,766 were from parents, and 793 were from staff members. Among parents, 294 parents with children under the age of 5 responded. Overlap among groups accounts for differences in count totals.

“We want to be abundantly clear: the pandemic disrupted the world and dramatically changed the delivery method of public education last March through May,” Qualman stated in the district release. “Our goal is, and has always been, to restore education services to a normal, five-days-a-week, schedule. But, it has to be safe for students and staff to do so. Our contingency planning is just that — being prepared if conditions in the community prevent us from resuming a normal schedule. We are working tirelessly with state and local departments of public health and the governor’s office to adapt to their guidelines and recommendations to get back to school.”

Eagle County School District leaders are part of a collaborative group that will ultimately decide how students and staff return to school in the fall. State and local public health departments, in cooperation with the Colorado Department of Education and the governor’s office, and with community support from parents, staff, students, and other stakeholders will determine the path back to school.

Among the ongoing planning is the goal to create schools as “green zones” that limit access to the virus through more ardent health checks. If parents screen their children each morning and keep them home and get them tested if they show symptoms of COVID-19, that minimizes the introduction of the virus in schools.

Likewise, staff will also have to conduct a health screening and stay home and get tested if they show symptoms. Symptoms can develop in school. Those students and/or staff members will be isolated as soon as possible, then sent home and sent for testing.

Protocols will be in place, and communicated later, regarding temporary closing procedures if positive cases develop or an outbreak occurs.

“The possibility of having to suspend in-person learning, whether for a day or a month, requires the school district to have an effective remote-learning process that provides continuity of student schedules and is flexible enough to move back to in-person learning with minimal need for review or repeating of content,” Qualman said.

The school board will be discussing the results of the survey during the work session portion of the next board meeting on Wednesday starting at 3p.m. The meeting is virtual, and the public is invited to join and listen in to the discussion — but is not a venue for direct interaction with the public. Additionally, there is no agenda item on the docket for regular session related to returning to school, meaning no decisions are being made about the district’s plans for returning to school. The public can benefit from listening in and staying apprised of the board’s questions, comments, and concerns.

Community members can join the virtual public meetings on Thursday and Friday to interact more directly with members of district leadership.

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