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More than 8 in 10 Parents Plan to Send Their Children to In-person School in the Fall

New research, conducted by RAND Corporation and commissioned by The Rockefeller Foundation, details parents’ preferences for in-person school safety measures and how they differ on racial and ethnic lines.

New York | Thursday, June 10, 2021 — A national survey of more than 2,000 parents, conducted by RAND Corporation and commissioned by The Rockefeller Foundation, found that more than eight in 10 parents plan to send their children back to school for in-person learning this fall. The report reveals significant variations in attitudes of parents along racial and ethnic lines. For example, 90 percent of White parents are planning for in-person learning compared to 72 percent of Black and 73 percent of Hispanic parents. Additionally, 74 percent of Black and Asian parents said that regular Covid-19 testing would make them feel safe compared to only 36 percent of White parents. Ventilation, mask-wearing, and regular testing at schools are among measures that would most support parents’ confidence in their children’s safety.

“Our research found that there are meaningful ways that schools can reassure parents about sending their children to school in person,” said Heather Schwartz, Director of the Pre-K to 12 Educational Systems Program and Senior Policy Researcher at RAND, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization. “A majority of parents want schools to enact COVID-19 safety precautions, particularly those parents who are unsure whether they will send their children to school in person. Communicating with parents about specific safety measures they plan to retain in fall 2021 could help schools assuage concerns and instill confidence for parents.”

The report comes more than a year into the Covid-19 pandemic and amid the Biden administration’s calls to safely reopen all of America’s PreK-12 public schools. The initial survey was partially designed by members of The Rockefeller Foundation’s State & Territory Alliance for Testing (STAT), a bipartisan network of more than 35 governors, who expressed a need for concrete data on parents’ current sentiments toward in-person learning. STAT members have already begun using the data to inform their preparations for school in the 2021-2022 school year.

Key findings:

  • 84 percent of parents plan to send at least some of their children to school in-person in the fall, while another 12 percent are unsure. Only 5 percent of parents have no plans to send their children to in-person schooling.
  • The most common reasons parents do not plan to send their children to in-person schooling relate to safety. The top reason is that parents say their children feel safer in remote schooling (31 percent), followed by concerns of their children contracting and transmitting Covid-19 to others at home (30 percent).
  • Ventilation is the top Covid-19-related safety measure that parents need to feel safe sending their children to school in-person, with 71 percent of parents supporting it. Ventilation was followed by mask-wearing (66 percent) and a 3-feet minimum distance between people (60 percent). Safety measures that involved vaccinating children were at the bottom of parents’ preferences.
  • More Black (74 percent), Asian (74 percent), and Hispanic (64 percent) parents than White (36 percent) parents say regular Covid-19 testing would make them feel safe.
  • 50 percent of parents said they would allow their child to participate in voluntary weekly testing, while 20 percent are unsure. A higher number of parents of color support this measure (68 percent of Asian parents and 61 percent of Hispanic parents), while only 42 percent of White parents say they would support it.
  • 52 percent of parents plan to vaccinate their children and another 17 percent are unsure. Rural parents and those who were not vaccinated themselves are the least likely to intend to vaccinate their children.

“This study boosts our understanding of parents’ intentions heading into the fall—and, importantly, how they differ across populations,” said Andrew Sweet, Managing Director of the Covid-19 Response and Recovery at The Rockefeller Foundation. “It confirms our need to continue investigating how communities truly think about safety while we work to build trust in classrooms all around the country.”

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

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The Rockefeller Foundation
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