Putting a line item in one’s back-to-school plan on additional cleaning necessary during COVID-19 isn’t enough. Parents say they want more transparency into school district operations, a new survey claims.
SafetyCulture, a company that focuses on improving safety, quality and efficiency in the workplace, conducted a non-scientific survey online between Aug. 24 and 27 of 1,164 U.S. adults 18 years of age and older nationwide, 983 of which said they have a child participating in school this fall. The survey asked questions about their feelings on back-to-school safety amid COVID-19.
The company said that 56 percent of the 983 parents reported that they have a child going back to in-person education this year. But less than half of those same 983 parents said they feel comfortable actually sending their children into such environments.
Besides wearing a mask and social distancing, the survey found that 34 percent of parents indicated that proof from schools that they are complying with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines will give them the most confidence in sending their children back to school.
“I guess the obvious [finding] that we were expecting is that we knew transparency was going to be key here,” said Bob Butler, the general manager for SafetyCulture’s America division. “As a parent, I just want to know that the environment is safe.”
SafetyCulture is now offering its mobile and website application iAuditor free of charge to school districts so they can provide visibility and insights into their operations, including transportation.
Butler told School Transportation News that the apps is used by 26,000 companies around the world, to help high-risk industries ensure safety precautions are taking place in their operations. However last month, SafetyCulture announced the app is now free of charge for kindergarten through 12th-grade schools for the current academic year.
“We did that because we just think that one, it’s our opportunity to give back,” Butler said. “And two, it hits home for a lot of us because we are parents that are going through the same anxieties that a lot of people are across the U.S., around our kids returning to the classroom. So, we think it can help in school transportation environments and can keep those safe.”
iAuditor provides parents that transparency that they desire when sending their children back to school, according to SafetyCulture. The app allows leaders to set up cleaning schedules, develop checklists and pull reports of the entire process. The optional Safer Together extension allows parents to view the publicly facing dashboard and see, for example, that all 100 school buses in the fleet were cleaned and sanitized on any given day.
“That should give everybody confidence that they’re being completed,” Butler explained. “That’s real transparency, that means you’re really taking this seriously. There’s nothing that says you’re taking this seriously more than putting your inspection data out publicly, but it’s important as it keeps everyone accountable.”
That feature is optional, and the public dashboard only shows the number of completed inspections. The actual details of the inspection, not public-facing, are sent to the administrator or leader that is reviewing the progress. This is where reports can be pulled and leaders can look at performance over time, what supplies the department needs and frequently failed areas.
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Fontana Unified School District in California is one of 20 districts so far that have either signed up or are intending to sign up for the app. Superintendent Randy Bassett said on a webinar on Tuesday that his district has full intentions of rolling out this application once it resumes some sort of in-person learning. The district started school on Aug. 24, but due to San Bernardino County’s COVID-19 infection rate, the district is currently 100-percent online.
However, Bassett said the app will allow him to share the dashboard with his parents, stakeholders and teachers, to hold the district accountable. He noted it is continuously monitored and automatically updated.
Districts can choose to create their own checklist or use the one that the company has already created on recommendations issued by the CDC. SafetyCulture provides a “COVID 19 – Bus Transit Operators Need to Know Checklist” available for download on its website. The checklist can be performed by school bus drivers to ensure proper cleaning and disinfecting was performed, the company added. The app also allows for image upload and provides a note section to log additional details.