Majority of A.L. 9th through 12th graders comfortable returning to school in-person in fall, survey shows

Published 7:12 am Tuesday, July 21, 2020

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Almost 76% of incoming Albert Lea High School freshmen through seniors surveyed last week said they would feel comfortable returning to the classroom in the fall amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Albert Lea student school board member Aaron Farris conducted the survey July 12 through 16 and had 523 students participate. He presented the results to the school board Monday.

Of the students who responded they would return to the classroom or were unsure about going back to school, 73% — or 355 votes — indicated they would want to go back full time, while 17.9% — or 87 votes — said they would go back part time.

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Farris said the results of his survey in many ways were similar to a Minnesota Department of Education survey sent out statewide June 15 through July 6 to parents that collected more than 130,000 completed responses. That survey showed 64% of parents who said they would feel comfortable sending their students back to school in the fall, and out of that number, 94% of those said they would support sending their students back full time.

The local survey showed students did not have a good experience with distance learning in the spring — with 27.2%, or 142 students, saying it went bad and 42.3%, or 221 students, saying it went very bad.

Less than 27% of participants said distance learning was good or very good.

Things that went well with distance learning included access to the internet and technology, along with good communication from teachers and having more free time after the school work was completed.

On the opposite end, 78.3% — or 408 students — said their lessons were difficult to understand online, and 69.6% — or 366 students — said their mental health declined. Sixty-three percent said they struggled to learn on their own.

Of the students who would not feel comfortable or who were unsure about returning to school in the fall, 79.4% said they were concerned for the health of themselves or their family.

The results come as school districts across the state await direction from Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and other statewide education leaders about what school will look like in the fall. Walz is expected to release more information by no later than next week.