Chicago Parents’ Biggest Back-to-School COVID Concerns

Sending kids back to school in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic is a hot button issue right now. Illinois has greenlighted for students to return this fall, but many school districts and private schools are looking at hybrid models or trying remote learning again. 

But how are parents feeling? Is it safe to send kids back or should we stick to remote learning again? In our first-time e-newsletter survey, Chicago Parent posed this very question — and others — to Chicagoland parents. 261 responded and shared their thoughts on this topic. 

“The students need to be in the classroom to have that accountability and structure. Plus, every student doesn’t do well at home with their learning,” said one parent. Another said, “I do not believe it is wise to send children back to in-person schooling this fall, at all. The numbers do not show anywhere near enough to feel safe.”

Let’s take a closer look at how some local parents are feeling about sending kids back to school this fall. Want to let your voice be heard in future surveys? Be sure to sign up for our Pulse enewsletter.

Question 1: What grades are your kids in now? 

In this survey, 38% of parents have kids in elementary school (grades 1-5). That was followed by kids in preschool or kindergarten at 28%, middle school (grades 6-8) at about 18% and high school at 12%. Some parents also selected “other.”

Question 2: In light of your district’s circumstances, what option are you leaning toward this fall?

For the fall, about 40% of parents would rather do remote learning again. About 23% feel comfortable with sending their kids back to school and about 21% like the idea of a hybrid model. Meanwhile, nearly 7% of parents are thinking about home schooling. 

3. What would make you feel safe to send your kids to school in person again?

About 33% of parents in our survey say they will feel safe to send kids back to school when there’s a vaccine. About 18% of parents don’t feel safe at all and 16% of them said they’ll feel safe if “stringent safety rules” are in place. 

Only 15% of parents are ready for their child to return to in-person learning this fall. Other options included 13% feeling safe when there’s a decrease of cases in their area and the remaining opted for something not on our list.

4. Which of these safety protocols for returning to school do you feel is most important?

Mask wearing seems like an important safety protocol call on the majority of parents’ minds. More than 48% of parents think students and teachers should wear them the majority of the time. 

Meanwhile, 15% of parents feel frequently touched surfaces should be disinfected multiple times a day and more than 13% feel social distancing is most important. 

5. Do you think your kid would keep a mask on in school all day?

Illinois residents over the age of 2 must wear face masks or face coverings in situations where social distancing can’t be practiced, and that includes schools. More than half of parents think their child might keep their mask on at school for some of the time. Only 18% of parents feel pretty darn confident their child would wear a mask their entire time in the classroom. And 24% disagree.

6. What’s your family’s biggest challenge with virtual learning?

Online learning is still a difficult task for some families. The majority of parents in our survey believe the biggest challenges are overseeing their children’s work (26%) and that there are more distractions at home for kids (25%).

About 19% of parents don’t see any other challenges. Other difficulties for parents include a learning style conflict for the student (16%), getting your child motivated (11%) and internet or technology issues (2%). 

7. Have there been any silver linings to virtual/remote learning?

We wondered if local parents thought there were any benefits to e-learning. Nearly 42% of parents don’t think so, it’s been rough. However, 39% like the flexibility. Other silver linings parents also agreed that with virtual learning, their child is less over-extended (11%), there are less distractions (5%) and fits their child’s learning style better (3%). 

8. How supportive has your kids’ school been during this transition?

Ever since schools closed in March, about 48% of these parents think their school has done “so-so” with support. 43% think their schools are very supportive, while 8% think their kids’ school haven’t been that supportive. 

9. What’s your biggest concern for the 2020 school year?

About 31% of parents are worried about kids missing out on social opportunities, extracurricular activities and milestone events. Next, 26% are concerned about hands-on and in-person learning opportunities. Some parents (17%) believe it might be difficult to oversee kids at home while working and 16% are thinking about their child’s mental health.

Other concerns shared with us are their child not receiving “a decent education”, the safety of students and school staff, and the face mask requirement. What are your biggest concerns? Let us know in the comments. 


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