RIVER FALLS — More than 70% of parents are glad their elementary students are in school five days a week and more than one-third strongly want all students back in the classroom full time, according to a recent school district survey.

In a separate survey for employees, district staff members were generally less enthusiastic about returning entirely to in-person class.

The surveys were designed to gauge satisfaction with pandemic-related mitigation measures and guide policy decisions for the second half of the school year, Superintendent Jamie Benson said at a School Board meeting Monday night.

Grades PK-6 were in school five days a week as of Monday, while grades 7-12 were under a hybrid in-person/distance learning model. Board members started the discussion for the eventual full return to face-to-face instruction as the COVID-19 situation stabilizes.

The parent survey had 1,238 responses, while the staff survey had 252 responses.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

Questions used a five-point scale, from 1 meaning strongly disagree to 5 meaning strongly agree. Here are some key takeaways:

Learning environment

The overwhelming majority of parents (71%) responded that they strongly agreed with grades PK-6 being in school and hoped for that to continue.

Source: River Falls School District survey, Jan. 2021
Source: River Falls School District survey, Jan. 2021

Opinions varied for middle and high schoolers returning to school five days a week. The largest share of parents (38.4%) strongly agreed that all students should be back to in-person class, though 17.4% strongly disagreed.

Source: River Falls School District survey, Jan. 2021
Source: River Falls School District survey, Jan. 2021

Trust and transparency

Parents appeared to be generally satisfied with the district’s communication and decision making, with 60.5% strongly agreeing that school leadership was transparent in pandemic-related decisions and 36.6% strongly agreeing that decisions were appropriate for the best interests of students and staff.

Source: River Falls School District survey, Jan. 2021
Source: River Falls School District survey, Jan. 2021

Athletics and co-curriculars

Opinion was divided when it comes to sports and athletic facilities, which have been gradually allowed to resume since the school year began. The board recently approved increasing the number of spectators to four per family at home athletic games depending on space in the venue.

Almost 20% of parents strongly agreed with the statement that the four-ticket limit is too restrictive and events should be open to all, while 31.5% strongly disagreed. Nearly half responded somewhere in between.

Source: River Falls School District survey, Jan. 2021
Source: River Falls School District survey, Jan. 2021

School Board has convened nearly every Monday night since the school year started to continue to revise the district’s pandemic response. The recurring theme behind School Board decisions has been finding a balance between coronavirus risks and the academic, social and emotional health of students.

COVID-19 update

Here’s the COVID-19 situation report for the School District of River Falls, according to a presentation to School Board on Monday night, Jan. 25:

  • There were 28 students out of school due to COVID-19 symptoms as of Monday, and 86 more due to being a close contact.
  • Fewer than 15 students and fewer than five staff members were in the infectious period of the disease.
  • A total of 154 students and 35 staff members have tested positive since the start of the school year.
  • Teachers are tentatively scheduled to begin receiving the first doses of the two-dose COVID-19 vaccine in mid-February.