The majority of parents in the Osakis School District would feel comfortable sending their children back to school this fall if the school district followed guidelines set by the Minnesota Department of Education.

That is according to a recent parent survey conducted by the district. There are about 850 students within the district and 405 parents completed the survey, which the district considered a good response.

Superintendent Randy Bergquist went over the survey results with school board members and administrators at the Monday, July 13, School Board meeting.

The survey consisted of nine questions asking about distance learning pros and cons, internet service, busing and more.

Here is a look at some of the questions and the responses:

How would you rate your distance learning experience?

  • Excellent – 4.2%

  • Very good – 11.9%

  • Good – 23.5%

  • Fair – 34.2%

  • Poor – 26.2%

If following the MDE health guidelines, would you feel comfortable sending your student(s) back to school this fall?

  • Yes – 68.1%

  • No – 5.7%

  • Unsure – 26.2%

Was your internet connection at home sufficient for your student(s) to complete their school work during distance learning?

  • Yes – 71.5%

  • No – 28.5%

Parents could comment after this question and although nearly three-fourths said their internet connection was sufficient, of the nearly 90 comments, the majority were regarding poor internet services or no internet services at all and how that was a major struggle.

Comments included things like, super slow, very slow, spotty, glitchy, do not have internet, waiting for high speed, lost connection, unstable connections and more. Many commented about having to add to their data or internet packages and that the cost was a burden, while others said they will not get the internet.

When asked what was challenging during distance learning, parents could choose from 12 different answers, checking all that applied. Here are their responses:

  • Not enough communication from your student’s school – 110

  • Not enough communication from your student’s teacher(s) – 157

  • Hard to understand lessons – 182

  • Too much school work – 141

  • Not enough school work – 34

  • Little or no access to internet – 67

  • Student didn’t have adult support – 65

  • Student didn’t have a place to work – 39

  • Student didn’t feel empowered to work on their own – 208

  • Student experiencing new mental health challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic – 144

  • Students experiencing pre-existing mental health challenges – 58

  • Students experiencing physical health challenges – 52

Parents were asked to check all that apply as to what went well during distance learning. The most popular responses were students had a place to work (244), access to the internet (231), students had adult support (212), access to technology (196) and good communication from teachers (195).

Another question asked what would make parents feel comfortable sending their child back to school. The most popular answer was daily cleaning of surfaces, including door knobs and handles, stair rails, classroom furniture, light switches, handles on equipment, push buttons, shared toys and computers, bus seats and handrails. Of the 404 responses, 327 – or 80.9% – chose this answer.

Other answers included a decrease in the number of COVID-19 cases in my area (108), smaller classes sizes (127), daily health checks including taking temperatures and screening for symptoms (221) and masks/face shields (81).

More than half (53.5%) of the parents said their child rides the bus. Of those who said yes (229), more than half (64.6) said their child would continue to ride the bus under the social distancing guidelines.

Superintendent Bergquist said from his personal perspective, he wants the students back in the building this fall, but that their health and safety, as well as the health and safety of staff, is of the utmost concern.

“I support the students coming back,” he said. “But we would have to follow all the guidelines.”

Bergquist said he sent a letter asking the governor to consider letting school districts make the decision whether or not the school should open back up this fall based on student and parent surveys. He said smaller, rural school districts are different from bigger metro area school districts and that the smaller districts should be able to make the decision themselves.

He said safety precautions would obviously have to be put in place, but that he prefers to have students in the buildings in person.

No action was taken regarding the parent survey as it was informational only.

Action taken

The school board approved the following items:

  • Raising the price of breakfast and lunch by 10 cents.

  • Resignation from Joey Andreasen as junior high football coach.

  • One-year leave of absence for Dan Beste, social studies teacher.

  • Calling for fuel bids.

  • Filing period for school board members. Filling opens on July 28 and closes on Aug. 11.