SANDWICH – Most surveyed Sandwich School District 430 staff members who filled out a return-to-school questionnaire would return to school for in-person instruction for the district's anticipated hybrid learning option for the 2020-2021 school year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
About 89% of 193 staff members said in the survey they will return to work for in-person instruction. Nearly 11% of the staff members said they weren't sure of their return to work plan at the time of taking the survey.
Survey takers wrote they were concerned about students and staff wearing masks in the summer heat, especially for 90 degree days in late August and early September. One suggested that teachers should be able to bring their own air conditioning units to their classrooms as long as no additional electrical wiring needs to happen to make sure that students and staff don't overheat.
"I honestly believe students' parents may choose to keep students home simply because of the heat," one staff member wrote.
Another staff member wrote the issue about the lack of air conditioning in some buildings is unique to the Sandwich School District and needs to be addressed as a district.
"We need a solution for teachers, students and parents beyond 'wait and see' about the weather," they wrote.
Participants also wrote they would like each building to have a staffed nurse when students are present. They also posed questions about whether there will be enough substitute teachers or, if a sub is called to take over a classroom, whether the sub would be trained in remote learning in the event that a teacher would need to quarantine for 14 days.
Many survey respondents posed questions about what plans of action would look like if a student or staff member tested positive for COVID-19. Staff members also expressed concerns about not having clear answers about how to plan for classes like choir.
One staff member wrote that the remote learning plan would need a complete overhaul and students would need more accountability than they had with the no-harm e-learning model from last spring.
"Telling students that they couldn't fail effectively told them that there was no reason to do anything, unless they were concerned about [grade point average]," they wrote.
Some participants wrote blended learning will not only be stressful, but the health risks currently far exceed any learning that will happen under that model.
"Remote learning is the safest option for teachers and students until the [case] numbers are declining," one respondent wrote.
The results and comments from the survey sent to Sandwich school district staff members were obtained by Record Newspapers via Illinois Freedom of Information Act.
The update comes as the Sandwich School District 430 Board of Education unanimously voted to approve the district's reopening plan as presented during the board's July 21 meeting. The approved hybrid learning plan includes students being divided alphabetically into groups, with one group attending school in-person on Mondays and Wednesdays, and the second group attending school Tuesdays and Thursdays – with Fridays being reserved for remote learning across the district.
In a district return-to-school questionnaire sent to parents and guardians, district officials said they are unable to house all students in school buildings at the same time due to the COVID-19 pandemic and per state health and education guidelines. School officials said in the survey that would mean a portion of a student's week will be spent in school and a portion of the week will be spent in remote learning, commonly referred to as blended or hybrid learning. Face-to-face attendance also would have required safety measures like wearing face coverings and temperature screenings.