About 80% of Janesville School District parents would be comfortable with their children returning to classrooms this fall, according to a districtwide survey.

Some 3,650 people responded to the 12-question survey over about a week at the end of June. The questions focused on educational preferences, extracurricular activities, transportation and safety measures.

When broadened to include parents, district employees and students, the survey indicates 52% would prefer that kids be taught at school.

The survey was organized and conducted by the Donovan Group, a school communications company based in Milwaukee. The Donovan Group conducted surveys for multiple Rock County school districts and then shared the results with each district.

The survey didn’t cost Janesville anything because the Donovan Group has a contract with the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators, of which the district is a member.

Parents made up the majority of survey respondents—72% of those surveyed said they have children who will attend public school in fall. Of those parents, around 80% said they would be comfortable having their children attend school in person.

About 36% of respondents preferred a hybrid education model in which groups of students would go to school at different times or on different days. A virtual—or online—education model was favored by just under 10%.

Superintendent Steve Pophal said the survey will be an effective tool for the district. He wasn’t surprised that a majority of those surveyed want students back in school.

“I think the numbers were predictable, and I think people recognize that kids learn best at school,” he said. “That’s why we have kids at school most of the time in a normal year.”

The data was shared with school board members, who will use it to decide which method to implement for fall. The board is set to make that decision at its Tuesday, July 14, meeting.

In an email, school board President Steve Huth said he was impressed by how many people took the survey, which offers valuable information for the board.

“We as an educational community are doing the best we can to provide the safest learning environment possible for every person who is part of our school system,” Huth wrote. “I am hopeful our parents and community leaders will encourage every person who may have an impact on the opening of school to support the guidelines in place at any given time. I am extremely confident in our leadership team and their ability to work with our board and families as we prepare to welcome students back this fall.”

The Gazette also reached out to board Vice President Jim Millard, who declined to comment.

The survey also asked people about safety measures that would make them more comfortable with in-person learning.

More than 85% of respondents said they wanted frequent cleaning of classrooms and school supplies, as well as hand sanitizer supplied to students.

Masks were a less popular option. About 40% of respondents said staffers wearing masks would make them more comfortable, and about 34% said students wearing masks would make them more comfortable.

The biggest concerns included public health guidance not being followed properly, classrooms not being disinfected properly, and schools not having enough sanitizing supplies and personal protective equipment.

About 82% of those surveyed said they would be comfortable with activities such as sports, clubs and music groups taking place this fall with precautions.

Pophal pointed to child care issues and parents returning to workplaces as possible reasons that parents wanted their children in school.

“Especially with our younger children, when you blend in the important issue of day care and the fact that parents have to go to work and then not have to worry about child care every day, I think that combination made this outcome predictable,” he said.

Despite the unsurprising survey results, it was important to get parent feedback, he said.

Pophal said district officials will continue to gather information from local, state and federal sources, as well as other school districts, as they determine what education will look like this fall.

This story was changed July 8, 2020, to clarify the percentage of parents comfortable with their children returning to classrooms.