FARGO — A survey of parents showed that the distance learning program Fargo Public Schools used during the coronavirus pandemic was mostly successful at a secondary level, but elementary students need better access to digital devices.

With 3,715 responses, the survey found that nearly 88% of parents felt all students should have access to devices to improve distance learning, associate superintendent Missy Eidsness said Wednesday, May 27.

“The purpose was that distance learning was new to our district, and that the possibility that we have to be prepared for reentry might include distance learning again, and we wanted to make sure we heard from the parents,” Eidsness said.

All students in grades 6-12 had access to devices, but not all elementary students did, she said.

At the elementary level, "we worked with families individually on asking them to use a device they had at home and checking one out for families who needed that,” Eidsness said. “The survey is telling us that this would be a more effective model if families had a school device for each child in distance learning. Because of that data, we are moving forward and moving to" that model for grades K-12 in the fall.

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District spokeswoman AnnMarie Campbell said the cost of additional devices was unknown and that the district will seek bids for the needed equipment before next school year.

The survey found that 80% of parents felt the distance learning program was what they expected or better, with 11% saying the program was better than expected.

“That was good for us to hear, although we know there is room for improvement, of course,” Eidsness said.

The survey showed that 56% of parents felt the overall workload was the right amount, and 34% of parents felt that students should have been assigned more work.

"Secondary had a smoother transition with students being more independent. Elementary was a little more challenging because there was parent assistance needed,” Eidsness said, noting that 81% of parents felt the assigned work was clearly explained.

The last day of school is Thursday, with teachers aiming to make the day special by decorating cars and hanging “We miss you” banners at some schools, Eidsness said.

“Our buildings have all been very creative to try to honor students,” she said. “They’re all trying to think of things they could do that were safe but would not create a gathering.”

For now, summer school will continue with distance learning though June, but that could change for July classes, Campbell said. School officials hope to return to traditional classroom settings in the fall, but that's not for certain, she said.