Back to school, working from home: Sioux Falls residents share how it’s going

Jan. 4, 2021

School generally is going better or as expected for parents during COVID-19, and most people who are working from home would like to continue it at least part time.

Those and other insights on how the Sioux Falls community is responding to the pandemic at this stage came from 500 readers who responded to an open survey by SiouxFalls.Business and the Augustana Research Institute conducted Dec. 13-23. It is not a scientific survey, but it does include representation from all age groups. Respondents were 55 percent female and 45 percent male.

The survey respondents skewed slightly older than our previous two surveys, with 62 percent of respondents reporting they are age 50 or older. Our respondents also reflect a few populations. They are most likely English speakers. They are more likely to own a home. And they likely are engaged with news, or they would not have found the survey. So keep those things in mind to avoid thinking this survey should stand as representative for the entire community.

Of the 136 people who responded they have children in grades K-12, 93 percent have children who are attending school in person, and 7 percent have kids who are attending virtually.

This respondent captured the thoughts of many who are sending children to school in person:

“I feel the science and data show that our children are at low risk for the virus and have not been large transmitters of it either. It is in the best interest of our children’s mental, physical and emotional well-being to be in school,” the respondent said.

“The small possibility of a negative outcome from being in school is far better than the potential lifelong negative effects they may face from not attending in-person school.”

Those who opted for virtual learning cited reasons such as the school not requiring masking and a child with a pre-existing condition, making COVID-19 riskier.

“We live in a high-risk household, and we didn’t want to take an unnecessary risk,” another said.

Those who sent kids back to school largely said it’s going as well or better than expected, with only two respondents saying it’s worse than expected.

“I really thought the school district would close schools if cases got too high. I picked an answer in the middle because it’s been more of a roller coaster of highs and lows,” one respondent said.

“Right now you are getting a response just before winter break where I can breathe a sigh of relief that she won’t be around kids with COVID. We’ve had many, many emails on positive cases at her school.”

Many parents expressed surprise that school had not been shut down at some point, along with support for the schools’ policies.

“I thought they would be virtual after a month, and therefore, it’s better than expected,” one parent said. “The high school level is a free-for-all, but the elementary level is going well.”

One parent called the experience “a nightmare,” though.

“Which is what we expected. We get a constant stream of emails saying there’s been a case in the school, so we never know if/when our kid will get it.”

Opinions were more split among parents with kids in college. Of the 62 parents who responded with college-age kids, 16 of them thought it was going better than expected, 28 of them thought it was going as expected, and 18 respondents said it was worse than expected.

“It is a different experience than when he started college,” one parent said. “With virtually all on-line classes, he misses the interaction and exchanges that take place in person. He is studying to become a commercial pilot, and there have been major disruptions to his flight training.”

Several parents reported isolation and faculty who struggled to teach virtually. Others praised schools for their precautions.

“We have a son at Mankato where testing is prevalent, education on prevention and quarantining is abundant, and students are given the tools they need to continue their education,” one parent said.

One parent whose student was attending college out of state said her daughter had one class in person each week.

“Absolutely horrible for mental health and thriving,” the parent said. “She is transferring to Augustana in January.”

Return to work?

The majority of respondents – 89 percent – said they feel their jobs are secure.

And when it comes to how they work, most are ready to make 2020 changes at least somewhat permanent.

Of 198 people who said they are working remotely, about half – 99 – said they would prefer to split time between going into work and working from home going forward. Sixty-eight people said they prefer to continue working only from home, and 31 respondents said they would prefer to go back to the workplace permanently.

“Am currently in a split mode. I do not like working permanently from home,” one person said. “But a future with flexibility would be nice.”

Some respondents said they were more efficient at home and appreciated saving commute time, while others didn’t feel as productive.

Here’s a sampling of additional responses:

“I worked from home 10 days per month before this and never did like the commute to the north end of town. Working from home gives me more flexibility to handle my work/life balance more efficiently.”

“I get a lot done at home, less interruptions; I also need to go in periodically to do some things I simply can’t do from home. I enjoy my co-workers and work environment. Initially, we had great communication via Teams and phone calls, but as Zoom and other technologies have become routine, communication isn’t as good. Face-to-face interactions keep us better connected as a team.”

“Worked from home for a bit; don’t miss it much. Some aspects were nice, but it was too hard for me to stay productive. Our office was deemed essential, and our management has been extremely vigilant in protecting us.”

“I think this has shown us that so many jobs can be done remote, so if you are sick, then just work from home for a few days. I think it also shows how many jobs really don’t need to be in office and could be remote going forward/work from home.”

“I’m working from my office along with multiple other co-workers in downtown Sioux Falls — have not had widespread cases.”

“The time home with family has been awesome. Plus with technology, me and my teams are able to perform at a very high level without missing a beat.”

Sioux Falls residents weigh in on COVID-19 response, masking, vaccinations

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Back to school, working from home: Sioux Falls residents share how it’s going

School generally is going better or as parents expected during COVID-19, and most who are working from home would like to continue it, at least part time.

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