KEARNEY — School district leaders in Kearney are hoping a survey of school district families will lead to improvements in student academic performances and teacher job satisfaction during a school year impacted by COVID-19.

Elementary results

Jennifer Kopp, director of academic services, said the Kearney district sent out around 3,650 surveys and received about half of them back.

The district sought responses from families to determine how various educational models are working that were put in place in light of the pandemic.

Overall satisfaction at the elementary level in regard to students’ academic experience hit 96% while overall satisfaction with technology support was lower at 81.7%. About 1.3% of those who returned surveys said technology support was dissatisfying while 17% were neutral. Elementary students attend classes in person.

Student classroom instruction rated high with 94% satisfied while satisfaction with online instruction was much lower at 77%. Communication from the district had 92% of respondents calling it “just right.” That satisfaction number dropped to around 90% when it came to communication from a child’s school building. Teacher communication satisfaction scored 80% as did satisfaction with student support from teachers.

“On the whole, the elementary percentages are favorable,” Kopp said. “I offer huge kudos to the elementary staff. If you walk around the schools, it feels normal.”

Secondary school results

While elementary satisfaction scores were a positive, secondary school numbers were not as favorable.

While elementary grades attend classes in person, secondary students utilize a hybrid model that mixes virtual and in-person instruction.

Overall, student academic experience showed 59% of respondents satisfied with 38% dissatisfied and 12% neutral. Overall satisfaction with student classroom instruction climbed 7%, however, online instruction satisfaction was 52%.

Other areas of struggle to note, according to Kopp, came with the comfort level in helping children with technology.

What’s being done

To address, and hopefully improve these scores, Kopp said a task force crafted recommendations for student and teacher support. As a result of recommendations, there will be additional counseling and emotional support services offered to students at all levels. In addition, at the three secondary schools, there will be academic interventions.

Some intervention sessions are already on the books while others will take place in the second semester.

At the high school and junior high, interventions are in place and include before- and after-school tutoring and Zoom office hours. Additionally, there will be an academic resource room available to all students on their designated virtual day and open study lab sessions on Wednesdays.

At the middle school, the recommendation was to add academic intervention, targeting students who are at risk of failing. Times are being planned and may be on students’ virtual day.

One of the biggest recommendations for secondary students was to also create two additional virtual days for secondary students. These days will specifically target students who are at risk of failing. On these days, scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, Dec. 21 and 22, academically at-risk students can come into their school buildings and receive support to help them complete semester coursework.

Another change to the second semester aimed at helping students is the school district now will not allow any student at any grade level who has not been successful in the district’s virtual learning option KSD Connect, either by failing classes at the secondary level or nonengagement at the elementary level, to enroll in KSD Connect for second semester.

School Board President Mark Kelly said the district is doing its best to educate students in the current pandemic environment.

“We are making alterations as we need to,” he said. “I commend the teachers and administration.”

Southeast Editor Kellie Houx can be reached at kellie.houx@mycouriertribune.com or 389-6630.

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