Support was low for closing playground structures and stopping all extracurricular programs.
Overall, the average parent supported or strongly supported eight of the 15 measures assessed in the survey. While this number was lower in some demographic groups, three-quarters of parents supported four or more measures.
“Preferences for the number and types of measures vary among parents,” Chua says. “But they broadly agree with the notion that schools should take steps to keep children as safe as possible.”
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Factors impacting a return to school
Twelve percent of parents surveyed indicated they will likely not send at least one of their children to school in the fall, with health concerns being the biggest factor. Respondents were less likely to say their children would attend in-person school if they believe someone in their home has a condition that increases the risk of a severe COVID-19 illness.
But many feel that the in-person school experience is best for their kids.
“I feel like (my child) gets a better education in person. I want her to be able to go to school where she can directly interact with teachers,” one Michigan parent said.
Twenty-one percent of parents said they weren’t sure yet about school attendance plans. Many are waiting to see how the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, while others are waiting to hear more about their schools’ plans.
“If the schools here decide to open, then that will mean we are trending in a favorable direction as far as the virus is concerned. I trust the local school districts to make the best decision based on their staff/cleaning/knowledge of the situation,” a parent from Illinois wrote.
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Many respondents also indicated they had little choice to send children to school due to jobs and financial constraints.
“We have no family to babysit and do not have the funds to hire a babysitter if the kids stay home. If one of us has to stay home to watch them we will likely lose our house,” one Ohio respondent said.
Many families indicated that a surge in COVID-19 cases would cause them to reconsider plans for sending children to school. Others would likely reconsider based on the safety strategies implemented in schools or the type of educational experience their children might have.
Governors across the country are working with educators to develop plans to safely open school. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is expected to announce her “Return to School Roadmap” on June 30, which will provide an outline for schools across the state to reopen for in-person learning in fall.
As these plans are announced, Chua believes it will be important to continue to survey parents regarding their plans and support for COVID-19 risk mitigation measures.
“In our survey, parents expressed a lot of uncertainty regarding their plans for school attendance,” he says. “Many are waiting to see how schools address safety and how the pandemic evolves. It’s very likely that parents’ views and plans will change as new information becomes available.”
Other authors of the report included Melissa DeJonckheere, Ph.D., Sarah Reeves, Ph.D., Alison Tribble, M.D., M.S.C.E., and Lisa Prosser, Ph.D., all from the Department of Pediatrics at Mott or Department of Family Medicine at Michigan Medicine.
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