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Two surveys distributed by School District U-46

By Seth Hancock
  As schools remain closed during the COVID-19 shutdown, School District U-46 has released a pair of surveys including one on “Community Needs” that wrapped last week and another “just for students” that started this week.
  The student survey started on Monday, May 11 and asked “students to tell us how well they feel included and represented,” according to a district press release.
  The survey, which the district states can take between 20 to 30 minutes, includes questions under three categories mostly being purely subjective questions.
  There are six questions under the “Diversity and Inclusion” category which ask about a student’s friendships with other racial and ethnic groups to determine “how diverse, integrated, and fair school is for students from different races, ethnicities, or cultures,” the survey states.
  Examples include asking “how fairly” students and adults “at your school treat people from different races, ethnicities, or cultures?”
  There are eight questions under the “Cultural Awareness and Action” category seeking to find “how often students learn about, discuss, and confront issues of race, ethnicity, and culture in school.”
  An example question is: “How well does your school help students speak out against racism?”
  There are five questions under the “Sense of Belonging” category seeking “how much students feel that they are valued members of the school community.” An example: “Overall, how much do you feel like you belong at your school?”
  The district release asks all fourth through 12th graders to take the survey and asked parents who did not want their students to take park to fill out an “opt out” form by last Thursday, May 7. Although the “opt out” form request implies the survey is mandatory, the district said it was not required when asked.
  “This student survey is not required,” said Mary Fergus, director of school and community relations. “The results will be used as another resource to review and reflect how we might improve our services per our Strategic Plan and Equity Plan.”
  The community survey started in late April and ran through Tuesday, May 5. The district stated it would release the results this month.
  The survey, according to the district, asked questions on “food and housing needs, technology and internet service, their child’s distance learning experience to date” with an aim “to help the District improve its academic and social-emotional services to families during the COVID-19 pandemic and the roll out of its Distance Learning Program.”
  While seemingly it is not the role of a government school system to provide for the “food and housing needs” of residents, Fergus said it is the role of schools. She cited the Illinois State Board of Education’s resources on nutrition and wellness as well as homelessness.
  “Healthy meals are part of what schools typically distribute to our families during the school year,” Fergus said. “We have continued to offer that meal distribution during distance learning. We also have long served students without permanent shelter as required under the McKinney Vento Act. These services are not unique to U-46.”
  During the COVID-19 shutdown, the district has been handing out meals to what its states are for “all children 18 and under,” but it comes with little oversight.
  “These to-go packed meals include a breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack,” a district release stated. “No paperwork is required to pick up the meals - just visit the pick-up location most convenient for you. The children do not have to be present and a friend, relative, or neighbor can pick up your family’s meal if you are not able to pick it up.”
  Asked if the district will directly intervene when a respondent to the survey stated a “need” or provide information to other organizations that can help, Fergus said both.
  “Most likely a hybrid,” Fergus said. “If the need falls under the school district’s domain and responsibility, we will respond with services. If not, we will respond with referrals to other agencies and organizations that may be able to help.”




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