Parents: Return to traditional school

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A majority of Ridgway parents support getting their kids back into the classroom this fall, according to the results of a parent survey conducted last month.

Of the 133 respondents, 66 percent were in full support of "full-time in-person instruction with class size limitations and other modifications based on State public health restrictions."

Schools across the state, including Ridgway, closed on March 16 in response to COVID-19 and did not open for the remainder of the school year. Ridgway students were given assignments through email, packet pick-ups and virtual meetings to complete their grade levels. This system was highly dependent on parental involvement.

A minority of parents who participated in the survey, 12 percent, were in favor of continuing remote, at-home learning into next school year. A combination of in-person and remote learning was supported by 33 percent of respondents.

An overwhelming amount of parents, more than 75 percent, expressed concerns w ith impact on both academic learning and social/emotional learning and mental health if remote learning continued to be the only form of schooling next school year.

One-quarter of respondents cited health concerns as the reason for being opposed to full-time classroom learning.

Nea rly all the parents who answered the survey, which was sent via email, said they had internet access for remote learning.

Transportation is a key issue with reopening, as adhering to social distancing guidelines would mean limiting t he number of children on buses. Most parents surveyed said they could find alternatives to get their children to school if the district could not provide transportation, although 11 percent said it would be challenging.

Some parents are considering homeschooling their children out of concerns about COVID-19, with 14 percent considering the option for one or more children and 15 percent saying they were undecided. Such a drop in enrollment would have severe effects on the district's budget.

However, Superintendent Susan Lacy told the board June 25 that the state would fund online options so that those students could still be considered part of the district.

Overall, Lacy said the budget was in good shape compared to what she had feared earlier in the spring. The district is receiving $279,000 in CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act funding from the federal government, which helps make up for losses in state funding like rural grants of which the district received $87,000 last year.

A percentage of CARES Act fund ing can be spent on salaries, which is the bulk of the district's expenses.

A survey of staff and secondary students will be conducted this month. Lacy will use feedback from all of these surveys and work with the Ouray County Health Department and the District Reopening Committee, made up of zo staff members and a school board representative, over the next month to determine details for the upcoming school year.