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Durango School District 9-R cancels mask mandate survey because of skewed numbers

Superintendent says link for questionnaire was ‘shared beyond parents’
Durango School District 9-R will hold a special meeting Thursday to discuss what to do about a survey that appears to have been shared with the greater community, skewing the results. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

Durango School District 9-R abruptly ended its survey seeking feedback about its masking policy “after having been shown compelling evidence of an effort within the greater community to skew the results,” the district announced Tuesday.

The Board of Education will hold a special meeting Thursday to determine whether it will relaunch the survey asking parents, students and faculty about their comfort with mask requirements.

The district noticed significantly more responses from parents than expected, and believe the information gathered by the survey to be skewed.

“We do know that the link for the survey was being shared beyond parents,” said 9-R Superintendent Karen Cheser.

Board members will not make any decisions regarding masks at Thursday night’s special meeting. The board will discuss what happened with the survey results, and whether they want to launch a more secure survey.

“Our survey may not have accurate data, and that’s what the board plans to talk about tomorrow (Thursday),” Cheser said. “The board will talk about what they think, and whether they need to send out another survey that has unique codes.”

Cheser said there has been concern about survey data in the past, and the district is looking into new ways to send out surveys so that only intended recipients can answer.

“I do know that we’ve found a way to make sure that every student, parent or staff member gets a unique code to take our surveys that can only be used once,” she said.

Cheser said the district has about 4,500 students, 800 staff members and 9,000 parents or guardians.

There was a standard number of responses from students and faculty, but significantly more responses than usual from parents.

“Student and staff surveys don’t appear to have any skewed data, but potentially there could be for the parent data,” said school board president Kristin Smith. “At the meeting, we’re going to talk about why that was brought to our attention and what that looked like.”

Smith said the survey included questions such as: What if mask mandates were removed immediately and what if 9-R kept mask mandates until after spring break.

A discussion that could lead to the changing of mask mandates is scheduled for Tuesday’s regularly scheduled school board meeting.

“There will be a presentation from the district with a COVID-19 update that comes from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment,” Smith said. “That could lead to a decision, but I wouldn’t say it’s for sure going to.”

Smith declined to say whether the larger-than-expected parent response was for or against continuing a mask mandate.

“There were several factors and information given that showed us that the data was potentially being skewed,” Smith said. “It wasn’t what the data said, it was that potentially there were people who were trying to take the survey more than once or have people from outside the area take survey.”


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