Mid-Prairie plans for first day of school

By John Butters
Posted 7/15/20

Speaking to board members Monday, Mid-Prairie Superintendent Mark Schneider affirmed his intention to begin school on Monday, Aug. 24, though he said the situation was still fluid and changes could …

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Mid-Prairie plans for first day of school

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Speaking to board members Monday, Mid-Prairie Superintendent Mark Schneider affirmed his intention to begin school on Monday, Aug. 24, though he said the situation was still fluid and changes could occur very quickly.

As with schools across the nation, the Mid-Prairie School District is confronting an assortment of questions related to education amid the current Covid-19 pandemic as it prepares for the 2020-21 school year.

Questions concerning masks, distance learning and student screening for the virus have complicated discussions on classroom size, transportation and school activities.

Schneider referenced the continuing debate over the direction that would best serve students, saying that opinions commonly held in June have changed with the information flow. He told board members that they could expect guidance from state authorities, but that the school board had final approval on local policies.

To aid the school board in it decision-making process, Schneider presented a preliminary report on a parent survey prepared by the school staff.

When parents were asked how concerned they were about students returning to school, approximately 49% of respondents said they had some concern, 34% said they had no concerns, and 16% said they would likely not send their children to school.

In regard to school busses, 20% said they would use the bus, 27% said they had some concerns and 13% said they would not. The remainder said they did not use school transportation.

When asked if there was a thermometer in the home, more than 96% of those surveyed possessed one. Regarding internet access, 90% of the parents said they had adequate access, 7% said their access was inadequate and 2% said they had no access. 

On the topic of masks, 54% of the parents said it should be optional, 40% said masks should be required and 6% said the faculty should be required to wear a mask, but student masks should be optional.

Also included in the survey was a question about the availability of childcare if schools were to return to virtual classrooms this fall.

Almost 63% of the parents said it would not be a concern, but 12% said it would be a huge concern, 14% it would be a moderate concern, and 11% said it would be a small concern.

Mid-Prairie staff members were also surveyed on childcare and the wearing of masks.

In regard to childcare, 22% of the staff said they didn’t know what they would do if they had to be in the classroom and the students learned at home.

Staff members in the survey overwhelmingly preferred that both the students and staff be masked.

Following the survey presentation, board members considered hypothetical situations that might require intervention or changes in existing policy, though no action was taken.

In other business, wording was changed in school policies regarding distance learning that made it easier for the administration to protect the health and safety of the school community. The changes clarified that the superintendent has the authority and discretion to make accommodations for remote learning and is able to close buildings to traditional in-person settings during public emergencies.

School policy re-affirmed that inappropriate use would not be tolerated in any of its distance-learning platforms.

In other policies, students who are absent with an illness would not be able to return until they have been fever-free for 72 hours.

Photos and videos will be prohibited at all school events except for public performances.

The school board added a July 27 meeting to its schedule to continue discussion on preparations for the upcoming school year.

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