New RAND Survey Suggests Support for Continuing Remote Schooling This Fall is Limited — Among White Families
As the 2021-2022 school year approaches, school districts across the country are making plans to give families the choice of continuing remote learning for their children.
However, recent findings indicate that the demand for remote or hybrid learning may not be as high as expected among many families.
According to a survey conducted by researchers at the RAND Corp., over 80% of parents now intend to send at least one of their children back to in-person schooling this fall. Another 12% are unsure about their plans, while only 5% plan to keep their children home for the upcoming school year.
Nevertheless, the survey reveals significant differences between white parents and parents of color. Black and Hispanic parents appear to be less certain about sending their kids back to school in person, with 28% of Black parents and 27% of Hispanic parents expressing uncertainty compared to just 10% of white parents.
If parents do choose to send their children back, the majority of them, regardless of race, express a desire for mask mandates. 86% of black parents, 78% of Hispanic parents, and 89% of Asian parents support the implementation of mask requirements. In contrast, only 53% of white parents share the same sentiment.
Parents of color also express a greater demand for regular COVID testing, with a significant gap between black and white parents (74% vs. 36%).
Researchers note that in many districts, Black families have been hesitant to allow their children to return to in-person schooling due to concerns about school safety measures and historically unequal discipline policies. In Chicago, for instance, in-person attendance for white students exceeded 70%, while for Black students, it was less than 50%.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also acknowledges that parents of color have greater concerns regarding certain aspects of school reopening, such as compliance with safety measures, overall safety, and the risk of their child contracting or bringing home COVID-19, compared to white parents.
Critics, such as RiShawn Biddle, a fellow at the non-partisan think tank Future Ed, argue that recent decisions by officials like New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy to terminate remote instruction in the fall negatively impact the majority of Black, Latino, and Asian students and their parents who prefer virtual learning as an option. Biddle suggests that this exacerbates existing educational and healthcare disparities.
Despite these differences, one consistent finding is that parents, regardless of race, prioritize classroom ventilation as the most essential safety measure for sending their children back to school in person. Ventilation is deemed more important than masks, social distancing, or even teacher vaccinations.
Schwartz, the researcher behind the study, suggests that schools can alleviate parents’ fears by clearly communicating the specific safety measures they are implementing.
The survey also reveals that two-thirds of parents desire the continuation of COVID-19 safety measures in schools. However, rural and white parents are more inclined to prefer a reduction or discontinuation of pandemic-related safety precautions, while Black, Hispanic, Asian, and urban parents are more likely to favor their retention.
Among parents who choose not to send their children to school this fall, the primary reasons cited are safety-related. Approximately 31% believe their child feels safer in remote school, and a similar percentage express concerns about their child transmitting or contracting COVID-19.
Another 22% state that their children prefer remote learning, while only 5% prefer homeschooling. Only 2% mention their child having to quit a job or care for younger siblings as a reason for staying home.
In conclusion, these findings shed light on the varying perspectives and concerns among parents regarding the return to in-person schooling. It highlights the importance of addressing safety measures, especially ventilation, as well as recognizing and addressing the disparities faced by parents of color.
She expressed her dissatisfaction with the fact that certain states are depriving parents of the option to choose. According to her, many parents are still fearful and concerned because they cannot be certain if the other individuals in the building, including children and adults, have been vaccinated or are free from COVID-19.
Guridy mentioned that at her school, adults have been undergoing weekly testing since April. However, she acknowledged that not all school districts or schools nationwide have had the same opportunity. Furthermore, there are still adults who have made the personal choice not to get vaccinated.
The recent survey results also indicate that there is not universal acceptance among parents regarding the vaccination of their children. Only 52 percent of parents stated that they intend to vaccinate their children, while an additional 17 percent remained uncertain.
In an effort to increase vaccination rates, the Biden administration has set a goal of vaccinating 70 percent of eligible Americans by July 4. They have partnered with ride-sharing companies Lyft and Uber to provide free transportation to vaccination sites. Additionally, the largest community colleges in the nation will host vaccination clinics until the end of June, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will fund various efforts such as phone banking, door-to-door canvassing, and pop-up vaccination sites in workplaces and churches.
These new findings starkly contrast with similar surveys conducted earlier this spring. For instance, an NPR survey revealed that 29 percent of parents were inclined to continue with remote learning indefinitely.
A recent poll by the National Parents Union, released on June 2, showed comparable outcomes to the NPR survey in most regions. In the Midwest, 21 percent of parents stated a preference for hybrid instruction over in-person instruction.
Schwartz from RAND noted that her data includes a significant 12 percent of parents who remain undecided. She also pointed out that differences in findings could be attributed to variations in survey question wording. Unlike other surveys that inquired about preferences, Schwartz’s survey focused on actual plans. This approach provides a more straightforward assessment. After all, who doesn’t appreciate having options?
Amanda Zinoman, a parent from Brooklyn, New York, eagerly awaits the resumption of in-person schooling. She expressed her excitement for her son to attend school full-time again, while acknowledging the importance of providing an alternative for parents who are not comfortable with sending their children to school.
Zinoman’s 11-year-old son, Jonah, has been participating in remote learning for the entirety of the year at his small public middle school. She considers the current academic year to be somewhat lost for him.
She understands the complexity of the situation but firmly believes that children should be in school. Zinoman believes that the minority of children who excel in a home learning environment is particularly small, especially considering her son’s age group of adolescents. She emphasized the significance of social interaction, attention, and the opportunity to be with individuals other than parents for children of his age.
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