Schools to seek more parent feedback on e-learning experience

A screen shot from the Board of Education's meeting on April 23, shows how well families are adapting to e-learning.

A screen shot from the Board of Education's meeting on April 23, shows how well families are adapting to e-learning.

Contributed photo /

WILTON — Hoping to stay on top of the social and emotional effects of the COVID-19 crisis, Wilton Public Schools will be putting out another survey to parents within the next two weeks on how their children are faring.

“I’m concerned over time with how this is impacting our students,” Kimberly Zemo, safe school climate coordinator, told the Board of Education on Thursday night, April 23.

She and other school officials gave a detailed overview to the board on the general operation and overall impact of e-learning since it was first implemented over six weeks ago.

The results of the last survey from close to four weeks ago showed that more than 10 percent of the 860 or so respondents had moderate or extreme concerns about their children’s social and emotional well-being. Somewhere around another 20 percent also shared they had general concern for their students, the remainder expressing either minimal or no concern based on a 1-to-5 grading scale.

“‘Concerned’ is a significant part of each of these responses,” noted Vice Chair Glenn Hemmerle, “and I just don’t know where we go from there or what that really means.”

“It’s parents’ perception perhaps, but clearly there’s a red flag there,” he said.

Board member Gretchen Jeanes said it may be that, since the first survey, people are seeing their children fare better as they’ve become acclimated to a new way of doing school.

“People don’t adjust very easily and I think there was a lot of stress at the beginning,” she said.

“We haven’t settled on a date, (but) we’re going to go out and survey again in a couple of weeks,” said Superintendent of Schools Kevin Smith, who planned to talk to his principals about it by Monday.

“I really am curious to send the other survey and find out where people are now,” Jeanes said.

Zemo said her office has tried to provide resource options for parents who may be worried about their children, and has asked them to contact her if they had specific concerns that a child was in crisis.

“How we can support a student’s social and emotional well-being is a critical part … The academics come second,” she said.

“I think that as this continues my concern is more on the social isolation front,” board member Ruth DeLuca said, especially for the younger students … “and how this affects them moving forward.”

Board member Mandi Schmauch pointed out that for those parents who expressed extreme worry about their children in the original survey, and had provided contact information, school representatives did reach out.

“If they gave their information we followed up with them, which I think was great,” she said.

Meanwhile the district is implementing what it called “curriculum compression” to help make the distance learning practices realistic by identifying the “priority standards” that require focus and working to meet them.

“I have to be frank, it’s still just an educated guess on our part,” Chuck Smith, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, said regarding the transfer from in-person classrooms to delivering curriculum virtually.

He said results will be examined in the fall and gaps that occur would have to be addressed through additional support services, or through instruction the following year.

Fran Kompar, digital learning director, reviewed how the district is using both “synchronous” techniques, which involve real-time interaction between teachers and students, and “asynchronous” methods, which include independent materials and activities, aimed in part to give flexibility.

“Our actual plan is a blended learning plan,” she said, with use of various online programs for things like math skill practice, quizzes, ebooks, and instructional videos all receiving higher traffic from students.

“We started rather abruptly on March 11, when we ended the day early,” Smith reminded everyone in recapping the e-learning model.

“We’ve done quite a lot in a relatively compressed period,” he said.