MORTON (WEEK) -- Nearly 95 percent of parents surveyed with children in Morton schools intend to send their children back to class in August despite the COVID-19 pandemic -- according to the school district.
The results of that survey were shared with the school board on Tuesday by Superintendent Jeff Hill -- where more than three-quarters of students had parents participate in the poll, upwards of 2,400 in all out of a total school population of approximately 3,100.
Hill said more than 64 percent of parents indicated that their children will return to school, without conditions. Another 30 percent said their kids would be present with certain stipulations.
According to the release, of that 64 percent, more than half said they felt strongly that students should be permitted to take a break from the mandatory wearing of masks at some point during the school day.
There were two other statistically significant camps. One group, comprising nearly 13 percent of the “attending-but” faction, said they want school officials to strictly enforce mask usage. The other, about 11 percent, demanded that social distancing be a top priority.
The other 5 percent were emphatic that their kids would be staying home. The vast majority of those opposed the mask requirement, which is a state government edict. Eleven respondents said their students have pre-existing medical conditions that do not warrant the risk of attending school with the virus still circulating.
Administrators and the school board have been pushing for greater local flexibility and autonomy with regard to school opening decisions, especially given the relatively low rates of infection in Tazewell County and the priority educators place on in-person instruction.
Reaffirming that position was recent guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics that schools are the healthiest, most productive place for young people to be.
“No one will be 100 percent happy,” Hill said, while expressing confidence that most will find the district’s back-to-school plan better than the alternatives. “We’re going to try to focus on learning over logistics, we want to do the best we can to make sure the environment is conducive to learning."
"We’re trying to mitigate risk. We’re not going to be able to eliminate risk.”
Board president Shad Beaty said the high response rate and desire to be back in school spoke volumes.
He noted that there will be a lot of variance in how central Illinois school districts deal with reopening schools. But in Morton, what he and other board members are hearing is that returning to school full-time, five days a week, gives most families a level of comfort in a world of much unpredictability.
That said, those same folks must prepare themselves to be adaptable, as change is going to be a constant.
The school board will make its final recommendations for the 2020-21 school year at its meeting on July 21.