OPS COVID-19 survey: Families favor sanitizing practices, hygiene education well over use of face masks

Published: Jun. 26, 2020 at 10:44 AM CDT
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Omaha Public Schools has released the results of

— one to student families and another to faculty and staff.

In a report dated June 24, more than 2,500 responses were collected from the 27,462 survey invitations sent out Wednesday, June 17, to student families.

According to the report, a majority of respondents were in favor of frequent use of hand-sanitizer and taking temperatures of students and staff daily. More than half also were in favor of the district providing face masks for everyone, though having students wear masks ranked 13th among things that would make families feel safe about returning to school.

Items of next-greatest concern were limiting class sizes and modifying schedules to allow for consistent social distancing. Supervised handwashing, providing individually packaged lunch items, and reducing school bus capacity were of the least importance by those who took the survey.

The survey also explored students' comfort levels with the notion of wearing masks at school.

"Results on this item were nearly evenly mixed across response options that ranged from Extremely Uncomfortable to Extremely Comfortable," the report states.

More than 42% of students "expressed some level of comfort by the thought of wearing a mask/face covering as a requirement to attend school," the report states, while nearly 40% expressed some level of discomfort.

More than half — 52.8% — were likely to support the use of masks for students older than age 2, but 12 other sorts of CDC-based COVID-19 prevention and education efforts earned more support from respondents.

When asked what elements would make them somewhat to extremely likely to support their student coming back to the classroom Aug. 11, the largest percentage of parents indicated:

    1. Thorough cleaning and disinfecting of frequently touched surfaces, objects, and occupied areas -- 70.8% 2. Availability of hand-sanitizer -- 66.5% 3. Increased external ventilation to infuse fresh air -- 67.4% 4. Student and staff temperature checks -- 63.9% 5. Modification of building layout to promote social distancing -- 63.1% 6. Teaching proper hand hygiene -- 62.7% 7. Discouraging sharing of educational objects -- 61.2% 8. Respiratory etiquette training for students -- 60.3% 9. Managed use of common areas -- 60% 10. Education campaign on when to keep sick students and staff home -- 54.1% 11. Signs and messages on promoting protective efforts -- 54.4% 12. Physical barriers and guides -- 55.7% 13. Use of cloth face coverings/masks for all students older than age 2 -- 52.8%

"The use of masks was the most contentious element of the CDC's guidance," the report states.

Nearly a third of those returning surveys said requiring facemasks would "erode their willingness to send their student to school," according to the report, with 20.4% indicating it would "extremely" impact their decision to have their student return to class, and 12% selecting "somewhat."

Face masks were of greater importance to staff, with 64.5% of more than 4,500 of respondents listing it as the sixth most important element to increase their likelihood of returning to work. Ranking in importance:

    1. Thorough cleaning and disinfecting of frequently touched surfaces, occupied areas, or objects -- 79.1% 2. Availability of hand-sanitizer -- 76.9% 3. Increased external ventilation to infuse fresh air -- 74.2% 4. Student and staff temperature checks -- 72.9% 5. Hand hygiene lessons and processes -- 68.4% 6. Use of masks or cloth face coverings -- 64.5%
Student comfort levels

Riding a school bus was at the top of the list for things responding students were most anxious about, while far more were comfortable with the idea of attending class and socializing with classmates and friends.

The top five things responding students said they were most comfortable with were:

    1. Socializing with classmates or friends -- 59.6% 2. Attending class -- 52.7% 3. Participating in extracurricular activities -- 50.8% 4. Participating in athletics -- 45.2% 5. Eating lunch -- 44.5%

Conversely, they indicated the most discomfort with:

    1. Riding a school bus -- 42.8% 2. Transitioning between classes -- 38.6% 3. Recess and gym -- 37.2% 4. Attending athletic events as a spectator -- 37.2% 5. Attending extracurricular events as a spectator -- 35.4%
Student/family respondent demographics

Of the 2,572 surveys returned, 22.6% said their child qualified as "at risk." The highest number of respondents, 29%, said they live in west Omaha; 26% live in north Omaha; nearly 22% live in south Omaha.

About a third of respondents said they were currently working remotely or from home; 29.4% identified themselves as a current essential worker; and 10.45% said they were unemployed due to COVID-19.

Staff survey results OPS sent a similar COVID-19 survey to teachers Thursday, June 18, with responses collected Tuesday, June 23. Of the 9,133 surveys sent out, 4,523 responded, with the majority — 78.9% — identifying themselves as "instructional staff." Just over 77% responding indicated they were likely to return to work in August, with 48.3% indicating they were "extremely likely" to return. Of the 11.9% indicating they were unlikely to return, about 54% attributed their response to their own susceptibility to "severe outcomes from COVID-19" because of underlying health conditions.