How do parents feel about their kids returning to school?

August 18, 2020

How parents feel about their child returning to school during a pandemic hasn’t been at the forefront of the school return debate. A report provides some much needed information about how they feel.

Should school be held in-person? Politicians, public health officials, educators, and doctors have all had their say, but less has been heard from parents. A report in JAMA Pediatrics offers some insight to how they are feeling about school attendance.1

Investigators used a sample of 730 parents in the United States. Each parent had at least one child who was aged between 5 to 17 years. They were recruited using the Prime Panel platform. Each parent filled out a survey on their own computer or mobile device and they were given a small monetary reward for completing the survey. To ensure that the sample included enough responses from Black and Hispanic parents, an increased monetary reward was given to them. Parents who had more than one child in the age range were told to respond to questions with the child who was next celebrating a birthday in mind when answering.

The researchers found that 31% of the parents stated that they were either probably or definitely keeping their child home when school resumed, but 49% said that they would probably definitely send their child back to school in the fall. The factors that were linked to keeping a child home included having a flexible job (33% with flexible jobs vs 19% with inflexible jobs; difference, 14%; 95% CI, 5% to 30%), having a lower income (38% with incomes <$50 000 vs 21% with incomes $100 000-$150 000 per year; difference, 17%; 95% CI, 9% to 26%), and being unemployed (40% unemployed vs 26% employed; difference, 14%; 95% CI, 5% to 25%). When they were asked why they were planning to keep their child home, they said confidence in schools (B = −0.22; P < .001), fear of COVID-19 (B = 0.19; P < .001), challenges of homeschooling (B = −0.12; P = .01), and fear of multisystem inflammatory syndrome (B = 0.12; P = .04). Ethnicity and race was not found to be significantly linked to plans to keep a child home.

The survey results indicate that many parents are planning to not return their child to in-person education during this fall. The number of parents found indicate that schools should endeavor to answer the concerns of parents and offer options to parents who choose to keep their child home.

Reference

1. Kroshus E, Hawrilenko M, Tandon PS, Christakis DA. Plans of US parents regarding school attendance for their children in the fall of 2020: a National Survey. JAMA Pediatr. August 14, 2020. Epub ahead of print. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2020.3864