The 2020-2021 academic year was unlike any seen by parents, children, and educators. A poll examines how the experiences of 2020-2021 color the expectations for the new school year.
Any start to the school year can be a source of worry for parents. Will a child going to a different school fit in? Will a child be safe from an active shooting event? Will a child have all that he or she needs to succeed academically, socially? The 2021-2022 school year will be another one that has to contend with the pandemic, but unlike last year most schools are starting with in-person learning and intend to maintain it. The C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor recently asked 1669 parents of children aged 7 to 18 years about their experiences of last school year and what they expect for the upcoming year.1
Roughly 1 in 3 parents said that at least 1 aspect of the 2020-2021 school year was better for their child than it had been the previous year and those aspects included 24% for academic performance, 19% for connections with teachers, 14% for relationships with other students, and 17% for general attitude about school. Among the parents who would rate at least 1 aspect of the 2020-2021 school year worse than the previous year, those elements were 25% for academic performance, 36% for connections with teachers, 40% for relationships with other students, and 32% for general attitude. Factors that made the 2020-2021 academic difficult included uncertainty about virtual learning (22%), the parent’s stress level (27%), and the child’s stress level (20%). More parents of high school students than both middle and elementary students reported spending over half the academic year participating in virtual learning. The parents who had a child who spent most of 2020-2021 at home, rather than at school, were more likely to rate most of the aspects worse for their child than those who spent less than half the year learning virtually.
For the upcoming year, 41% of the parents said that their child was more enthusiastic; 43% were about the same level of enthusiasm; and 16% indicated that their child was less enthusiastic. Common worries among the children including being afraid of having to do virtual school again (26%), being comfortable around more people (24%), not being where they should be academically (22%), and getting along with friends (22%). Many parents felt equipped to aid their child when dealing with peer problems (44%), bouncing back when things don’t go the way their child hoped (47%), and being successful at school (51%). Among the parents with children who are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, 62% of parents said their child would feel safer if most teachers and fellow students had been vaccinated. Many parents want to know the number of students (59%) and teachers (61%) who remain unvaccinated, but just 19% indicated that this information would have an impact on whether their child attended school in person.
1. C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. National Poll on Children's Health: how a year of COVID influences views on start of school. 2021;39(2). Available at: https://mottpoll.org/sites/default/files/documents/082321_BackToSchool.pdf