Fifty percent of parents of children in Santa Fe Public Schools who responded to a new enrollment form said they would prefer their son or daughter learn remotely for the entire school year, the district announced Wednesday.
“These results are a game changer for the District,” Superintendent Veronica García said in a statement. “Though we still need to contact parents we have not yet heard from, if the percentages hold, we may have to hit a reset button on our return-to-school staffing plans.”
Students will complete their coursework online for at least the first nine weeks of the fall semester, which begins Aug. 20. The district plans to gradually resume in-person learning once the state’s coronavirus spread rate begins to stabilize.
Like many states, New Mexico saw an uptick in infections last month. The results of the questionnaire seem to indicate many parents feel it is still too risky to send their children back to the classroom.
“Our parents, teachers, staff and community are struggling with how to best protect students, juggle work demands, child care issues, and ensure quality learning,” García said. “We knew that the 2020-2021 school year would not be one-size-fits-all and designed plans to deliver high-quality learning across the spectrum.”
She added: “The strong desire for year-long remote learning is telling of parents’ fears and concerns as the school year begins.”
More than 4,200 parents responded to the July 29 inquiry on their education model preference, according to the district. Some of those parents have more than one child in Santa Fe Public Schools. In all, the results account for around 5,100 of the district’s 13,000 students.
The form asked parents whether they want their children to be enrolled in a remote-learning program or a hybrid model once the district is able to resume in-person instruction.
“There will be remote for families who want it and there will be hybrid for families who want it,” García said in an interview.
According to the district, at least half of the parents at 18 of the district’s 29 schools said they intend to have their children learn remotely for the full school year.
The results showed 72 percent of parents who responded at Ramirez Thomas Elementary School were in favor of having a fully remote school year. At E.J. Martinez Elementary, the tally was 69 percent.
At Ortiz and Milagro middle schools, the majority of parents who responded — 59 percent and 52 percent respectively — supported remote learning. At Capital and Santa Fe high schools, the breakdown was 52 percent and 42 percent respectively.
The district will use the results to pair “students with the teachers they will have for the entire year,” García said.
“Now the challenge will be for each school to contact the parents we didn’t reach,” she said, noting the district still has to get a hold of some 8,000 parents.
“We have a lot of work to do,” she said. “I wish the response was higher, but we will forge ahead.”
Last month, school officials released the results of a districtwide survey that showed parents were almost evenly split between online learning, a full return to classrooms and a hybrid model that combines the two.
The numbers released Wednesday show that “people’s attitudes are shifting so rapidly,” school board President Kate Noble said.
Under the hybrid model, half of the district’s students would be on campus while the other half would log in remotely. If 50 percent of families opt out of the hybrid model, that might work out well for the district, Noble said.
“There’s a lot of ways this can go,” she said. “Ultimately, I have enormous faith in Dr. García and her team in solving an enormously complicated puzzle.”