Parents across the city have no doubt heard that there is a new survey out there that DOE officials would like them to complete. It’s called the “Return to School 2020” survey.

I filled it out recently, only to realize that the survey questions might represent the best glimpse parents can get into what city officials are thinking about for September. Here’s what I noticed.

City officials are concerned about federal funding and serving students with special needs. The survey asks parents to report explicitly (and anonamysly) whether their children have special learning or language needs. That suggests officials are particularly concerned about serving students with dis/abilities and who are learning English. It’s worth noting that both populations can also come with additional federal funding, so asking survey respondents the question is likely with an eye toward federal funding concerns on the horizon.

Health is a priority, of course, but officials are trying to gauge just how flexible parents are. They ask respondents to rate how important different health measures are to parents, including students and staff wearing masks, temperature checks, and operating at 50% capacity in classrooms.

Schools will possibly, even likely, open up in some kind of modified or “phased” model. The survey asks some very specific questions about what kind of modified models would be most and least acceptable. For instance:

  • Sending your child to in-person school one week and then learning at home the next week.
  • Sending your child to in-person school on only certain days of the week (e.g., Monday, Wednesday, and Friday or Tuesday and Thursday). On the days your child is not in school, they would be learning at home.
  • Having your child learn at home full-time every day.

They also seem to be considering using face-to-face school time for non-academic activities like counseling.

When it comes to the quality of remote learning, officials are still only scratching the surface. When you read through the options for how to improve remote learning, it doesn’t get very specific. The options include:

  • Virtual extracurricular activities such as clubs.
  • An easier way for you or your child to monitor their progress in school.
  • More access to teachers when your child has questions.
  • A variety of ways to learn from home (paper packets, recorded videos, live teaching, one-on-one tutoring, small group work, etc.).
  • More social interaction with classmates online.
  • Live instruction at least once per day.

If, for instance, I wanted my child to have clearer ways to monitor assignments or I specifically thought that math instruction needed additional resources, I would have no way to share that.

Officials are worried about how students get to school. The final questions focus on the methods of transportation parents expect to use to get their children to school, if they are open for face-to-face instruction. Remember: if schools open as “normal,” 1.1 million students and 75,000 teachers have to take some mode of transportation to get there. That might not be what the city needs if we are still managing Covid-19 outbreaks or resurgences.

If you haven’t yet completed the survey--and you are a parent or a student--I encourage you to do so as soon as you can. The city needs all the input they can get.

This post is based on a recent episode of the “Extra Help with Inside Schools” podcast. You can find the entire episode here.

Have you filled out your “Return to School 2020” survey yet? Tell us what you thought of it in the COMMENTS section.