New survey reveals parents’ safety expectations to reopen schools for in-person learning

A new survey from University of Phoenix magnifies parents’ safety expectations when it comes to schools reopening for in-person learning.

Photo by Arthur Krijgsmanm

Although parents feel lucky to have had this extra time with their child and have established new family traditions, they are worried about the lasting effects of children being away from school.

During the pandemic, parents of child(ren) under 18 have been parenting differently. Many parents of minors have encouraged their child(ren) to practice good hygiene (63%), appreciate what they have (54%), learn something new (52%), talk about their feelings (49%), play outside (36%), or just relax/do nothing (31%). Many parents of minors also appear to be loosening the reins a bit. About half are allowing their child(ren) to wake up later (51%) or go to bed later (46%), and a similar proportion are allowing their child(ren) to have more screen time (49%). However, this may be short-lived, as considerably fewer parents who are doing these things right now say they plan to continue doing it after the pandemic subsides (allowing their child(ren) to have more screen time (18%), wake up later (18%), or go to bed later (16%)).

Although more than one in four parents (29%) say they are giving their child(ren) more freedom right now, a similar proportion (28%) are creating more boundaries/rules. Even after the pandemic subsides, some parents say they will continue creating more boundaries/rule (20%) with fewer continuing to give their children more freedom (15%). Perhaps this is in part due to parents saying once social distancing guidelines are relaxed, they would not be comfortable with their child(ren) attending a large gathering (66%), hugging their friends (60%), going to a theme park, zoo, mall, etc. (58%), attending a birthday party (57%), playing on a playground (53%), going on a playdate (53%), attending school/daycare in-person (53%), or playing sports (45%).

While more than a third of parents of kids under 18 (37%) are being more flexible on schoolwork/deadlines, most admit they are worried about the lasting effects of their child(ren)’s academic progression (75%) as well as social development (68%) being away from school/daycare. Nearly 2 in 3 parents of minors (64%) say it has been very stressful for their child(ren) to be away from school/daycare. On par with this, parents of minors (64%) also say it has been very stressful for them that their child(ren) are away from school/daycare. However, sending their child(ren) back to school/daycare once social distancing guidelines are relaxed causes mixed feelings. While 70% use negative words like being worried (46%), being nervous (42%), hesitant (32%), or overwhelmed (19%), only 44% use positive feelings like optimistic (22%), excited (20%), confident (19%), or relieved (14%). And, 15% say they feel indifferent.

Nearly all parents say at least one of the following should be mandatory in schools/daycare centers once children are allowed to return, including: daily cleaning/disinfecting of all classrooms and common areas (61%), mandatory handwashing breaks (58%), and sick children not being allowed to attend (57%). About half say regular temperature checks (51%), socially distant classrooms (e.g., desks 6 feet apart, etc.) (50%), and fewer children per classroom (49%). Some also say teachers need to wear a mask at all times (44%), regular tests for infection (43%), proof of immunization or immunity (41%), children wearing a mask at all times (40%), reduced school hours (30%), or no parents allowed inside the building (20%).

Although about half of employed parents (54%) say having their child(ren) home from school/daycare has negatively impacted their work, even more (86%) say they feel lucky to have had this extra time at home with their child(ren). In fact, many (25%) say they have been establishing new family traditions during this time. And, the majority of parents (75%) say their household will be better prepared if my child(ren) have to be away from school or daycare in the future.

Survey Methodology
This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of University of Phoenix from May 12-14, 2020 among 2,067 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.