Study Finds Parents Face Catch 22 Over School During COVID

New national study sheds insight on parents' concerns about school in a pandemic, finding that parents agree kids are learning less but don't want to send them back yet.

Parents feel pulled between worries about their kids’ learning losses during the pandemic and their worries about the safety of their kids going back to school, a new national survey of more than 25,000 people by Northwestern, Northeastern, Rutgers and Harvard universities found.

The biggest concerns came about learning losses from parents of middle schoolers, 55%, and parents of high schoolers, 52%, followed by parents of kindergarten and elementary students, 49%. At the same time, the survey, which was conducted between Dec. 16, 2020, and Jan. 11, 2021, found that one in 10 of those surveyed believed their children actually learned more with remote learning.

Still, the report explained that the majorities of those surveyed in 46 of 50 states were against a return to in-person learning. In Michigan, the figure stood at 68% of parents against returning to in-person classes, the study showed.

“The shift to virtual learning was impressive in many ways, but after nearly a year, it is clear that concerns are growing,” says political scientist James Druckman, the Payson S. Wild Professor of Political Science and Institute for Policy Research fellow and associate director at Northwestern, in a news release. He is one of the researchers involved with the university research consortium investigating attitudes about COVID-19.

The survey also tackled the issue of requiring students receive a COVID vaccine before in-person school resumed. Nationally, 56% approved of the requirement. In Michigan, that number came in at 54%.

The study did find partisan politics came into play, with Democratic-identifying parents (71%) more in favor of the requirement than Republican-identifying parents (41%).

“The partisan trends echo the patterns we have seen for most COVID-19 related policies. Here though, there is a Catch-22 given substantial concerns about learning loss, but also opposition to returning to in-person,” Druckman said in the news release. “It is an unfortunate stress that many parents are living with — believing their children are learning less, but that it is not safe to return to school.”

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