The majority of parents would like to see their children return to the classroom, according to a survey published by Tullahoma City Schools.

According to Director of Schools Catherine Stephens, the school system sent out a survey to parents in June to hear their thoughts on whether or not students should fully return to the classroom for the 2020-2021 school year. The survey was discussed at the June 30 study session of the school board.

Stephens said 2,952 surveys were sent to the parents or guardians of Tullahoma students based on current contact information the district had. Surveys were available online as well as oral and written forms for those without internet connectivity. According to Stephens, about 10 people came to the central office to fill out a hard copy of the survey or call in with their answers.

Of those nearly 3,000 surveys sent out, 1,410 or 47.7% of those surveys were completed and returned, according to Stephens.

Additionally, Stephens said during the study session, families were encouraged to submit only one survey response in order to get a more accurate accounting of families’ feelings on returning to school; however, based on the primary contact information for students, in some cases two parents received the survey for the same family.

The survey presented the families with three options for the coming school year, including a traditional return with all students in the classroom, an entirely distance-learning return and a hybrid return. Parents were asked about their comfort level of each of these options.

“This was broad-based; just trying to get a sense of where everybody is,” Stephens said of the first question.

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According to the survey results, parents were the most comfortable with the traditional model return, with 67% support. Only 21% of parents were comfortable with the distance learning model, and 35% of parents were comfortable with the hybrid model.

The traditional model comfort was 67% in favor and 21% not in favor. Eleven percent of respondents chose “other,” indicating they would need more information on how this model would work for their children before they could make an informed decision, Stephens said.

“Within the ‘other’ comments, there might be things about, ‘Tell us more about what kind of protocols would be in place,’” Stephens said of the third option. Another concern for parents, Stephens said, was how the state was approaching business re-openings and the state of the economy or their own work schedules.

The hybrid model was less popular among parents, with 35% in favor of it and 47% against it. The portion of respondents answering “other” was slightly higher for this option, with 18% of respondents needing more information, according to Stephens.

Stephens said the hybrid model may include only certain portions of the student population returning to the classroom on certain days, with students split into groups with staggered schedules.

“Some students [may] come two days a week while other students are at home,” she said. “All students in some capacity are coming in and are doing distance [learning].”

Concerns around daycare and childcare were among the most popular concerns listed with this option, Stephens added. The logistics of this option were what turned parents away from this option.

The distance learning model was the least popular among parents, with 67% of respondents not interested in having this model be the one used for the next school year. Distance learning also had a small contingent of “other” answers at 12%.

“What you can see is the majority of people said they are not interested in distance learning as a way to begin,” Stephens said of this option.

Again, she added, childcare concerns were prevalent among respondents, as were concerns about student connectivity.

Finally, Stephens said, parents were asked which option they would prefer to use if they had to pick an option for their children.

Overall, parents who took the survey said they would prefer to see their children go back to school in the traditional way, with 60% support. A hybrid return lagged behind with just 25% support, while the completely distance learning model had a mere 15% support.

Erin McCullough may be reached at emccullough@tullahomanews.com.

Staff Writer

Erin McCullough has won awards for her news reporting, community lifestyles and education reporting in the three years she's been a journalist. She is a graduate of the University of Tennessee and currently lives in Tullahoma with her cat, Luna.

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