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K-12 Parents Say They Want In-Person Schooling, Even as Delta Variant Surges

New York | Wednesday, August 18, 2021 — A national survey of more than 3,100 parents, conducted in July by RAND Corporation and commissioned by The Rockefeller Foundation, finds that 9 out of 10 parents plan to send their child to school in person this fall—up from 84 percent in May 2021, even amid the surge of the Delta variant.

The survey reveals that while the vast majority of parents are sending their children back to school this fall, they do not feel informed on schools’ Covid-19 safety measures. One in 3 parents say they don’t know their school’s safety plans, and 6 in 10 parents say they want more information about the specific safety measures their schools are enacting.

“In-person learning is a continuing, clear priority for parents, but not at the expense of safety—an extremely meaningful finding as the pandemic evolves around us all,” said Andrew Sweet, Managing Director of the Covid-19 Response and Recovery at The Rockefeller Foundation. “Given this, we will continue to do everything we can to support school officials and policymakers with the resources, evidence, and guidance to build safety protocols and testing programs that protect our kids and communities.”

“Our research has found that most parents want to send their children to school in-person, and they want a suite of safety measures at school—not just one practice—to feel comfortable doing so,” said Heather Schwartz, Director of the Pre-K to 12 Educational Systems Program and Senior Policy Researcher at RAND, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization. “Notably, while a gap still exists in the percentage of White and Asian parents compared to Black and Hispanic parents who plan to send their children to school in-person, it has narrowed in the last couple months alone.”

Key findings include:

  • Across race/ethnicity, geographic region, and among parents with children who have significant health needs, large majorities of U.S. parents want their children back to in-person learning. Even among parents whose youngest child is immunocompromised, 70% are opting for in-person schooling. In addition, 88% of parents of children under 12—who are currently ineligible for vaccination—are as likely to send their children to in-person school as parents of children over 12 (86%).
  • Covid-19-related health concerns remained the top reasons parents cited for not sending their children to school in person in fall 2021, with more Black, Hispanic, and Asian parents citing concerns than White parents.
    • Black, Hispanic, and Asian parents are twice as likely to support mask requirements in schools than White parents.
    • Black, Hispanic, and Asian parents are more likely (62-64%) than White parents (43%) to support their children getting tested if there was voluntary, free, weekly Covid-19 testing at schools.
  • Rural parents have fewer Covid-19-related health concerns than urban parents.
    • 34% and 32% of rural parents want mandatory masking and Covid-19 testing at schools compared to 55% and 54% of urban parents.
    • 50% of rural parents want to know more about their school’s Covid-19 safety practices compared to 63% of urban parents.
    • 40% of rural parents plan to get their children vaccinated for Covid-19 compared to 61% of urban parents.
  • Parents’ own vaccination status is highly predictive of whether their children over 12 have been vaccinated and whether they plan to vaccinate their children under 12 when a vaccine is authorized and available for that.
    • 74% of vaccinated parents reported that their children 12 and over are vaccinated compared to only 8% of unvaccinated parents.
    • 79% of vaccinated parents plan to vaccinate their children when it is “authorized and available for their age,” compared with 10% of unvaccinated parents.

    The survey continues The Rockefeller Foundation’s work to support members of the State and Territory Alliance for Testing (STAT), a bipartisan network of more than 40 states, who expressed a need for concrete data on parents’ current sentiments toward in-person learning and Covid-19 mitigation measures in schools.

    Today’s report is also the latest in The Rockefeller Foundation’s ongoing efforts to provide America’s educators and policymakers with the tools they need to reopen their schools safely and effectively, including research and an operational playbook. Find the RAND Corporation survey here.

    About The Rockefeller Foundation
    The Rockefeller Foundation is a pioneering philanthropy built on collaborative partnerships at the frontiers of science, technology, and innovation to enable individuals, families, and communities to flourish. We work to promote the well-being of humanity and make opportunity universal. Our focus is on scaling renewable energy for all, stimulating economic mobility, and ensuring equitable access to healthy and nutritious food.  For more information, sign up for our newsletter at and follow us on Twitter @RockefellerFdn.

    Media Contact
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    The Rockefeller Foundation
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