School bus

A First Student school bus travels along Geist Road Tuesday afternoon, August 22, 2017. 

About 54% of parents surveyed by the school district said their students’ learning was meeting or surpassing expectations while 46% surveyed last month reported that learning was below or far below expectations.

A different survey shows most parents are reluctant to send their children to school unless the district can adhere to guidelines by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That involves separating students into groups, staggering schedules and keeping students 6 feet apart.

The Fairbanks North Star Borough School District has been in remote learning status since March because of the coronavirus pandemic. The district surveyed parents about how things are going with remote learning and to gauge their tolerance for sending children to school.

Some students are excelling under the remote learning model, while many students are feeling isolated and are falling behind, according to comments from survey takers.

“Online learning is difficult because it is so easy for students to switch over to YouTube when you think they are studying,” one parent wrote.

“The teachers and students seem to be working so hard for very little learning,” another respondent said. “The internet and lack of human contact is taking a toll on the attitude and attention of our kids.”

Another wrote, “My personal view is they are being treated like college students, and they are not ready for that.”

The remote learning model is causing some students to dislike school, parents said.

“Some days, we have good days. Some days, we have bad days. There is a lot of crying and missing their friends,” one parent wrote.

Here is how another parent summed it up:

“She is seriously struggling this year with the extreme lack of physical activity available for her to release energy, so that with that combination of excessive screen time, constant availability to the Google chat and Gmail chat continuously popping up distracting her from her school work, causing her to fall further behind, which then increases her stress level, has essentially created a time bomb in my child and she is not handling this well at all.”

Some comments were approving of the remote learning model and education leaders’ emphasis on protecting public health.

“I cannot thank the school district and the teachers enough for doing their best to try and keep these kids engaged, connected and learning,” one parent wrote.

“I would just like to say that I really appreciate how hard teachers and staff are working to make the best of things,” another commenter said.

“My student said class sessions seem more focused, and less time wasted with fluff online compared to in-person learning,” another parent wrote.

“I encourage the school district to remain closed as long as possible to help stop the spread of the coronavirus,” yet another respondent said.

The district is in the high-risk operational zone for the spread of COVID-19, and schools were emptied of teachers, special education students and high school athletes last week after a plea from Gov. Mike Dunleavy to all Alaskans to step up public health practices.

Parents are eager to send their children back to school but under certain conditions, according to the school district surveys.

Almost 80% of respondents said they would send their children to school when the district moves back to the yellow, medium risk, operational zone, according to the 1st Quarter Survey.

A second survey, the Red Zone Survey, showed 52% of respondents would send their children to school during the high risk operational zone provided schools follow CDC guidelines. That fell to 34% if the federal guidelines could not be met.

About 30% of survey respondents reported that technology has negatively impacted their students’ learning while 35% rated technology as a positive, according to the 1st Quarter Survey.

Another big complaint was class and learning schedules, with 32% rating it as harmful to learning.

Teacher support received high ratings, with 60% of respondents saying it has positively or very positively impacted their students. The negative or very negative rating was 17%. The rest of the respondents were neutral or gave no answer.

About one-third of parents reported that remote learning was meeting their expectations, while an additional 18% said their students’ learning was above or far above expectations.

The school district received almost 4,000 responses to its 1st Quarter Survey.

Most survey respondents — 72.5% — were parents of students in the blended learning program, which would involve in-person classes when available.

About 22% of respondents have students in an eLearning program, which is all online, while the rest, 5.5%, said they were in the district’s homeschool program.

Contact staff writer Amanda Bohman at 459-7545. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMborough.

Recommended for you