By Carol Stiffler

As school districts make plans, back-up plans, and even more back-up plans to get back to school, checking in with the community was a must. The state required it as part of the Return to Learn plan.

Stacy Price, superintendent and high school principal, asked community residents to take a survey expressing how comfortable or uncomfortable they are with sending students back inside the building this fall. She received 360 responses, and the survey is closed now.

The results are in, and they are as expected: all over the map.

That is, everything from “carry on like normal” to “there is no way I am sending my students to school”.

Price has a pie graph made from the results, and it’s “a pretty colorful pie,” she said. Here’s how it broke down:

Of the 360 responses, 271 were from parents, 48 were from teachers or staff, 11 were completed by students, and 30 were filled in by community members.

-85 respondents said they were comfortable sending students back to school without any new safety protocol in place.

-85 others said they were comfortable if safety precautions were encouraged.

-55 respondents said they were comfortable with students returning to in-school learning if safety measures were enforced.

-65 were unsure how they felt.

-47 said they were not comfortable even with safety measures in place.

-23 said they were not comfortable sending their children to school in the fall.

The takeaway, for Price, is that there will have to be options this fall, including an online-only option for families who do not feel it’s safe to send their students to school.

Tahquamenon Area Schools is working together with the Engadine Consolidated Schools district and Three Lakes Academy to form similar plans for their return to school.

“The hardest part, for me, is that I don’t know if I can meet everybody’s wants,” Price said. “I want kids in the building as much as the next person.”

She hopes everyone will be flexible and respectful of how others feel about the return to school.

In any case, the district will begin using an online platform from the start of the school year to make possible a seamless transition to at-home learning if it becomes necessary to close the building again.

Angie Harris, a Newberry parent whose son Joseph will be a junior this fall, took the survey and said she is hopeful students will be able to stay in school.

“I think what’s here in the U.P. is a little different from the bigger cities,” Harris said. “I think we should have a little leniency.”

With the amount of sickness and flu that occurs every winter, Harris thinks it’s always a gamble anyway. “It is what it is,” she said. “We have to take it in stride, and, I think, send kids back. If things go south, we need to have a different plan.”

Harris said her son plays football and had just gotten track shoes to join track and throw the shot put. Losing the 2020 spring track season was a bummer, and he missed friends and even teachers, too.

“Everything has been so upside down,” Harris said. “We have to do something for the kids to have a little routine.”

The 2020-2021 school year is currently scheduled to begin on September 8.