Durango 9-R School District to relaunch survey to gauge support for lifting mask mandates – The Durango Herald

Data from the first questionnaire was skewed by parents sharing the link, voting multiple times

Durango School District 9-R will re-release a survey seeking feedback from staff, students and parents on potential changes to the school district’s mask mandate. (Durango Herald file)

Board members of Durango’s 9-R School District agreed Thursday to relaunch a survey seeking feedback from students, parents and staff on their feelings about lifting COVID-19 mask mandates.

The new survey will be sent as soon as possible on Friday and will end at 5 p.m. Monday, the council said.

In launching the new survey, the school district is throwing away data collected in its first survey after ‘compelling evidence’ surfaced that a survey link had been shared with the wider community, skewing the results .

“I would love to see accurate data,” said school board treasurer Rick Petersen.

The district abruptly ended its investigation Tuesday after learning of the efforts to skew the results.

The district noticed far more responses from parents than expected.

“We know the investigation bond was shared beyond the parents,” Superintendent Karen Cheser said.

It was brought to the attention of the district that parents were posting how to share the survey with the general public.

In Thursday’s special meeting, which was held virtually, much of the discussion focused on whether board members wanted to retain data collected from students and staff, as their results did not appear distorted.

“I’m quite comfortable looking at the staff data and the student data, because potentially that hasn’t been corrupted like the parent survey was,” the president of the board said. school board, Kristin Smith.

A number of students and staff didn’t get a chance to complete the survey because it closed early, some board members noted. It therefore made sense to revive the investigation so that students and staff could have another chance to weigh in, they said.

“While it’s an inconvenience to ask everyone who has already completed it to do it again, I think we also respect those who haven’t had the opportunity to do so,” Petersen said.

The board plans to discuss and possibly vote on changing the mask policy at its regular meeting scheduled for Tuesday evening. In order to maintain this schedule, the district opted for a short response period for the new survey.

Cheser said survey data has raised concerns in the past and the district will ensure only intended recipients can respond.

“I know we’ve found a way to ensure that each student, parent or staff member receives a unique code to respond to our surveys that can only be used once,” she said.

Cheser said the district has about 9,000 parents or guardians, 4,500 students and 800 staff members.

The survey results had a standard number of responses from students and teachers, but far more responses than usual from parents.

Smith declined to comment on whether the larger-than-expected parental response was for or against pursuing a mask mandate.

“Several factors and information showed us that the data was potentially skewed,” she said. “That wasn’t what the data said; it was that there were potentially people trying to complete the survey more than once or asking people from outside the area to complete the survey.

Smith said the investigation included questions such as: What if mask mandates were removed immediately and if 9-R kept mask mandates until after spring break?

According to Colorado Chalkbeat, most school districts in Colorado have ended mask mandates.

Denver, Jefferson, Larimer and Pueblo counties have all lifted their school mask requirements in the past two weeks, though Denver’s change doesn’t go into effect until Feb. 28.

Still, federal guidelines continue to require masks in schools, and states like Illinois and California are keeping them for now.

Chalkbeat reported that only 31% of Colorado children ages 5 to 11 are fully immunized, which is higher than the national average but well below the rest of the population. Sixty-one percent of children ages 12 to 15 are fully immunized in Colorado.

Justin Mietchen, left, said he stood up for his children during Thursday’s protest near Escalante College. Mietchen disapproves of Durango School District 9-R’s mask policy and feels it is a violation of her rights and those of her children. (Christian Burney/Durango Herald)

In response to the cancellation of the survey, about 20 parents staged a protest Thursday morning near Escalante Middle School south of downtown Durango.

Protesters carried signs that read: “Mask mandates are child abuse,” “My child, my choice,” and “9R violates the constitution.”

At the protest, concerned mother Alicia Drover said she supports choice on face coverings and other medical mandates.

“I’m okay with people wearing masks if they feel it makes them safe, but no more mandates on our children,” she said. “We supported our district leaders, teachers, all staff, even our children as they enforced masks.”

njohnson@durangoherald.com

About 20 parents and concerned residents protested the Durango 9-R School District’s masking policies near Escalante College on Thursday. (Christian Burney/Durango Herald)

About 20 parents and concerned residents protested the Durango 9-R School District’s masking policies near Escalante College on Thursday. (Christian Burney/Durango Herald)

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