MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie announced Thursday the results of a major survey the school district undertook earlier this month.

The survey focused on a big picture snapshot of the efficacy of distance learning as well as an understanding of mental health needs for students and staff.

Runcie said the survey, which included responses from more than 65-thousand students, parents and staff, outlined some positives, including the fact that the vast majority of Broward County school students have been engaging in distance learning and most of them have reliable access to technology.

There were some challenges revealed by the survey, like the fact that more teachers in the district need to engage with students through videoconferencing or other virtual methods.

For Runcie, it’s proof that more work needs to be done.

“We’re gonna continue to get better at this as it goes on,” Runcie said.

One of the big takeaways, Runcie said, is that more teachers need to go beyond simply putting assignments online and engage virtually face to face or through online chats with students.

“Our students want and need to see their teachers,” he said. “Yes, you may not be physically on campus in a classroom but you can still create virtual interactions which can be beneficial.”

Runcie said that will be a requirement for teachers who teach summer school.

The school district says more than 90 percent of students regularly log into distance learning and many of them do their work without help from others.

“67 percent of our students are saying, ‘Hey, I pretty much am on my own when it comes to continuing my education process,’” Runcie said.

In Miami-Dade, school administrators there are in the process of conducting a similar survey. Parents have until May 27 to fill it out.

“Parents definitely have strong opinions and they are important to us,” said Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, who added that he hopes to get to word to parents as soon as possible about the reopening of schools in August.

“I am very hopeful that by the end of June we will be able to announce to the community the plan for the reopening for schools in 2020-2021,” he said.

Back in Broward, another concern is mental health for students and teachers. Runcie said several statistics stood out.

“Eighteen percent of parents are concerned about their students’ social-emotional well being and 24% of staff are concerned about their emotional well being,” Runcie said.

The district has received more than 3,600 requests from individuals to speak with a teacher or counselor since distance learning began, Runcie told reporters, and the school district is responding to mental health requests and will focus on mental health when school commences for the next school year.

Runcie also said that more than half of the students surveyed said they struggle getting motivated for distance learning.

“It’s an adjustment,” he said. “They’re used to routines. Getting up and getting on a bus and being in a classroom. There’s a certain amount of discipline associated with that.”

Nearly half of the students surveyed say they take care of others during at least part of the day, reflecting some of the challenges families across the community are facing.

Runcie said the survey shows that distance learning is working but more work needs to be done.

“We’ll continue to make progress and do the best we can for the kids and parents in Broward County,” he said.

Broward Schools is preparing for a blend of physical and virtual schools for the upcoming school year. Miami-Dade Schools said they are possibly preparing for that and several other options.

Miami-Dade Schools is now giving parents until Wednesday, May 27, to fill out its survey. Parents can find the survey, which is available in three languages, here:

Carey Codd

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