TOWN OF BELOIT — Staff members in the School District of Beloit Turner remain split on how comfortable they feel returning to classrooms this fall, and district administrators say they are working closely with staff to provide a safe learning environment.
A survey of Beloit Turner staff shows about half of them feel comfortable returning to classrooms this fall and that they prefer a blended learning model of both in-person and virtual lessons.
Superintendent Dennis McCarthy said the survey results indicate a majority of staff members want to return to school grounds and work with students in-person this fall, provided the district can offer a safe environment to do so.
“Our staff are here to do the work they are passionate about and simply want to know we are taking the safety measures needed in the consideration to reopen schools to in person instruction,” McCarthy said. “We cannot make a plan work without our staff. The safety of our staff is every bit as important as the safety of our students.”
McCarthy said the school district is working closely with staff leadership teams in each building to ensure that staff and administrators mutually understand and are on board with developing plans to return in September.
“In coordination with the Rock County Health Department and the Department of Health Services guidance tools, we are developing our plans to meet every safety expectation possible,” McCarthy said. “We also have to be realistic as this is not an easy task. While some have a strong belief that schools should be reopened or offer only virtual instruction, those strong beliefs need to be backed by reliable guidance.”
About 180 staff members responded to the survey. It was open between July 9 and July 17, McCarthy said.
Results show 15.64% said they feel extremely comfortable returning to school, 33.52% said they feel somewhat comfortable, 9.5% responded neither comfortable nor uncomfortable, 31.84 percent said they feel somewhat uncomfortable, and 9.5% responded extremely uncomfortable.
Almost half of respondents said they wanted a blended learned model with some online lessons and some in-person classes.
The survey indicated 31.46% of staff said they prefer in-person instruction, 48.31% said a blended model is best for students, and 20.22% responded that classes should be held entirely online.
Additional questions on the survey included polls on one-way movement in hallways, preferred structure for recess, social distancing measures, wearing of masks or face coverings, holding lunch hours inside classrooms and how staff meetings should be held.
The survey indicated 82.78% agreed or strongly agreed that teachers and staff should wear face masks in school buildings. Around 75.42% responded they support students also wearing masks.
Other survey results show that roughly 74.58% said they support one-way movement in hallways, 83.8% responded they agree with social distancing adjustments, 78.09% are in favor of modified access to restrooms, 57.3% say students should eat lunch in their classrooms, and about 79.22% said they believe staff meetings should occur virtually whenever possible.
On the subject of recess, teachers largely responded that recess should be modified, but not canceled. A majority of staff, about 75%, said they either disagree or strongly disagree with not offering recess. Only 9.09% of staff said no recess should be held. Around 72.62% of staff said they support modified recess.
The School district of Beloit Turner is tentatively planning to resume classes on Sept. 2, with a blended learning model of some in-person and some virtual lessons.
During its July 13 meeting, the Board of Education approved a reopening plan that both administrators and the board’s president, John Turner, have described as “flexible” with an emphasis on safety for everyone involved.
The district’s current plan allows families choose whether this wish to send their children back to in-person schooling or to instead pursue virtual learning in the fall.
About 80% of Turner families who recently responded to a different survey said they feel comfortable sending their children back to school grounds this fall, with safety measures in place.