BERNARDS TOWNSHIP, NJ -- More than 90 percent of Bernards Township parents and students are satisfied so far with the distance learning that has replaced days in the school building, according to a survey being conducted by the district.
The school sent out the computerized survey before the April 20-24 spring break, and will accept responses through tomorrow, Wednesday, online.
The district has conducted distance learning via computer devices since March 16, when schools across the state were closed in the effort to combat the spread of the corona, or Covid 19, virus. In the first two weeks, the work concentrated on reviewing previous content, said Fox. Since then, the system has ramped up to advance student learning, grade assignments and increase student-teacher interaction.
Gov. Phil Murphy said this week all schools in New Jersey will be closed until at least May 15.
Grant Kolmer, supervisor of mathematics, and Assistant Superintendent Kristin Fox presented survey findings to the Board of Education at its “virtual” meeting Monday night. Fox called the results “overwhelmingly positive,” especially since there is no guidebook on how to conduct long-term distance learning.
As of Monday afternoon, the survey had collected information from about 40 percent, or 2,058, of students and from 38 percent, or 1,220, of township families who responded to the survey.
When asked, “Overall, how is distance learning going?” only about than 10 percent of students in grades 3-12 answered “not as good as I expected.” Middle and high schoolers graded the experience a bit better, with less than 10 percent giving the lowest of five options.
Similarly, parents responded positively when asked for an overall satisfaction rating, based on their observation. About 70 percent of parents of kindergartners through eighth graders gave the two highest rankings on a scale of five. About 75 percent of high schoolers’ parents gave the highest two marks.
Nearly 80 percent of the district’s 547 instructional staffers answered the survey. About 60 percent of the K-12 teachers in the six buildings isaid they were at least “coping” or even “managing this new situation very well.”
At the high school, responses were broken down by curriculum. Across almost all subjects, about 60 percent of staffers checked “Although this is not the ideal situation, I am coping.”
The district showed the township to be well supplied by Internet access and devices. More than 99 percent of parents said their home had “ample internet access” to participate in the distance learning program, and 95 percent said they had enough devices (desktops, laptops, tablets, Chromebooks, iPads) for each child enrolled in school to work on-line simultaneously.
Almost 91 percent of students said they didn’t have to share a device with a member of the family. In instances where there weren’t enough devices, the school district is working to supply them.
Two-thirds of parents estimated that their children spent three hours or more per day on their studies, with the most time being spent by middle and high schoolers. About 15 percent of both parents and middle and high schoolers estimated there were five hours or more per day spent on studies.
Generally, about 60 percent of sixth through 12th graders said they “feel like I am continuing my learning.” About 80 percent of those students said they agreed or strongly agreed that “my teachers are reaching out to me and creating opportunities for me and my class to connect during distance learning.”
About 75 percent of third- through 12th-graders said they knew there were ways (school counselor, student assistance counselor or the computer “Virtual Relaxation Room”) to support their overall wellness and mental health “during this challenging time.”
Fox, board members and other administrators praised the adaptiveness and work of the staff, especially realizing that they too must cope with the challenges of staying and working at home themselves.