News Story

Will Your Kids Return To School In Fall? One-Third of Parents Unsure

Survey indicates support for reopening schools rises with family income

A survey of public school parents in Michigan, Ohio and Illinois shows that roughly one-third are unsure about returning their children to in-person schooling this fall. Just over one in ten parents — 12% — said they’re likely to hold at least one child back from in-person instruction.

The University of Michigan survey suggests that many parents have reservations about students returning to school buildings, with the majority favoring social distancing requirements for students and staff. For example, 65% said they wanted limits on the number of children on buses, 63% favored alternating between in-person and online classes, and 60% said they would prefer staggered pickup and arrival times for students. Fewer supported drastic social distancing policies, with only 48% in favor of children eating meals in classrooms and 27% in support of canceling all extracurricular activities.

The idea of mask-wearing in schools was particularly controversial. A majority of parents — 61% — said that masks should be required for school staff, but less than 50% said children in fifth grade and below should be required to wear masks. Random testing of school staff on a weekly basis was favored by 66%, and 74% wanted the classmates of students who test positive also tested. Just 49% said they favored weekly random testing of children.

According to an article published by MIRS News, the president of the Michigan State Board of Education was surprised by the number of parents who are wary of resuming in-person instruction. “Wow ... 30% seems high, but again if the economy is bad, parents may opt to keep the family together,” Casandra Ulbrich said.

The survey suggests that parents with a higher income are more likely to return their children to school. While 76% of parents whose annual income is $100,000 or more said their children would return to school, only 60% of parents with incomes below $50,000 said the same.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently released MI Safe Schools, a back-to-school plan with requirements and recommendations that depend on the reopening phase or status of the region in which a school is located. Most of Michigan is currently deemed to be in phase four. Under phase four, face masks would be required at nearly all times for staff and students in grades 6 and up; children in fifth grade and below would be allowed to remove masks in the classroom but be under orders to wear them at all other times in school. There would also be regular temperature checks and data collection. There would be no student assemblies, masks would be required at all extracurricular activities and sports fans could not congregate in large numbers.

In a recent article, Ben DeGrow, director of education policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said that schools should have the flexibility to take measures best suited for their particular circumstances. “As educators, parents and students try to adapt to the prospects of a different kind of school year ahead, policymakers should give local decision-makers more room to maneuver,” he said.