Will Students Come Back? School Hesitancy Among Parents and Their Preferences for COVID-19 Safety Practices in Schools

Research Rundown Issue: July '21
Publisher: RAND Corporation
Date Published: June '21


This May, the RAND Corporation fielded a survey of over 2000 parents with school-aged children to gauge:

  • Parents’ willingness to send their children back to in-person schooling in the fall,
  • The reasons why parents want to send their children back to school,
  • Parental support for certain health and safety practices at school, and
  • Whether parents planned to get their children vaccinated.

Overall, 84% of parents surveyed indicated that they planned to send their children back to school. However, there were stark differences by race. While 90% of white and 84% of Asian parents indicated they planned to send their children back to school, this percentage dropped to 72% for Black and 73% for Latino parents. There was also a difference based on geography, with 91% of rural parents indicating they planned to send their children back, 84% of suburban parents, and 79% of urban parents.

When asked about the reason why parents had decided to send their children back to in-person schooling, more than two-thirds of parents indicated that it’s because their children do better in school and because their children want to go back. However, only 56% of Black and 54% of Asian parents indicated that their children wanted to go back, as compared to 74% of white parents.

With regard to school safety and health protocols, 71% of parents were concerned about classroom ventilation and 66% of parents wanted a mask requirement. However, there were stark differences between white families and families of color. Only 63% of white families indicated that classroom ventilation was essential to feel safe sending their children in-person, as compared to 78% of Black, 82% of Latino, and 89% of Asian families. Similarly, 86% of Black, 78% of Latino, and 89% of Asian families wanted a mask mandate to feel safe, compared to 53% of white families.

Why This Matters in Minnesota

In conjunction with districts engaging with families to plan for how they are going to address learning loss, they must also ensure family members feel comfortable with safety measures in place for in-person learning. After over a year of distance learning for many families, and in some cases illness and death in families and communities, frequent communication and two-way communication about COVID-19 is essential to supporting families, and to student safety. This is particularly critical for districts that serve large populations of students of color, as their parents are more hesitant to send them back to in-person learning. And if families are choosing to keep their children in distance learning, it’s imperative that districts ensure that they offer high-quality options that provide a rigorous and engaging learning environment.

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