Photo Courtesy of Zbigniew Bzdak with the Chicago Tribune
Published 05/08/2020 | Reading Time 6 min 31 sec
WASHINGTON, D.C.—As cities and states grapple over when, how, and what to reopen, a new survey released today by the National Parents Union found that two-thirds of parents across the country want schools to remain closed until it is certain that there is no health risk, even if it means students falling further behind. Just 22% of parents say schools should reopen as soon as possible.
When schools do reopen, strong majorities of parents, more than eight-in-10, support several measures including sending out notices to all parents if any student or staff member becomes ill, allowing students or teachers who are particularly vulnerable because of health issues to continue to learn or teach from home, and providing counseling and mental health support for students and staff. Support for staggering schedules and requiring face masks for students and staff is somewhat lower, 75% and 70%, respectively.
“The voice of parents must be heard loud and clear: we will not let our children return to school until it is absolutely safe to do so”, said Keri Rodrigues, Founding President of the National Parents Union and a mother of three. “Our children are not guinea pigs. They are our sons and daughters whose health and safety must be paramount above all else. When school leaders, government officials, and medical professionals can make us, as parents, feel comfortable that it is safe for our kids to return, that’s when we’ll do so and not a second sooner.”
Most parents also believe that schools should use this time as an opportunity to make changes to education. Sixty-one percent of parents say that schools should be focused on rethinking how to educate students, coming up with new ways to teach children moving forward as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. Only 32% of parents want schools to revert to the way things were before the pandemic began.
Parents are also more concerned about education and their families’ wellbeing than they are about making ends meet. 81% of parents are worried about their kids missing important social interactions at school or with friends, and the same percentage of parents are worried about making sure their child stays on track in school. Nearly the same say they are worried about themselves or a family member contracting coronavirus (80%). And more than three-fourths say they are worried about how the situation is affecting their child’s mental health and emotional wellbeing.
Meanwhile, economic concerns don’t rank quite as high, although still a significant issue, as 69% of parents say they are worried about making ends meet.
Rodrigues continued, “Our instinct, as parents, is to always put our kids’ wellbeing above all else, even as many lie awake wondering how to pay the rent. Every single day our hearts break as we worry how this crisis is impacting them, whether it be their mental health or their ability to keep up in school. But make no mistake, our kids are learning- they’re learning grit, perseverance and empathy, attributes that they will carry with them for life.”
Overall, parents, whose child’s school is closed, are satisfied with the job their school is doing in providing resources and support, with 72% saying the schools are doing an excellent or good job. However, parents with lower incomes are somewhat less likely to rate their school positively than those with higher incomes. Sixty-seven percent of parents with annual household incomes of less than $50,000 per year say their child’s school is doing an excellent or good job, compared to 76% of those with incomes of $75,000 or more.
Eighty-two percent of parents overall are confident in being able to help their child continue to learn under these circumstances. Despite broadly positive feelings among parents about their child’s school and their own ability to help their child continue learning, 45% of parents feel their child is learning less during this time than they normally would, while 20% say they’re learning more and 31% say they’re learning the same.
Still, parents could use some relief. When asked to choose what would be most helpful to them as a parent right now, respondents answered with the following in the top three: help keeping children engaged in good activities (46%), more information about how to support children’s’ learning (31%), and high-speed internet access (29%).
Survey of N=500 parents of public school students in grades kindergarten through 12th grade
Sampled from online web panel
May 4–5, 2020
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ABOUT NATIONAL PARENTS UNION
The National Parents Union is a network of parent organizations and grassroots activists across the country committed to improving the quality of life for children and families in the United States. NPU unites these organizations behind a common set of principles that put children and families at the center of the national education narrative. With delegates representing each of the 50 states, NPU disrupts the traditional role of parent voice in policy spaces and develops a new narrative that is inclusive of families from a wide variety of intersectional perspectives.