Survey Reveals Parents’ Top Concerns About Returning to School Since COVID-19

By Brian Stephens, Caissa Public Strategy

Parents across the nation are increasingly concerned about sending their children to school in the fall. In fact, when asked how concerned they were about their children returning, 89% of parents indicated they were concerned about their child’s safety at school in relation to COVID-19. Not only are parents concerned, they are ready to make changes on behalf of their children if desired safety measures aren’t met.

Each year, Caissa Public Strategy conducts a general survey to best determine how to recruit and retain students in your district. In our 2019 National Recruitment and Retention Survey, approximately 38% of parents were thinking about changing schools in the upcoming year.

Want to know what that number is, now that parents have to factor in decisions around COVID-19? Our data shows as many as 61% of parents are likely or very likely to consider changing schools in the fall if desired safety measures aren’t met.

Since school choice is at the top of parents’ minds, their beliefs should impact every school’s decision on how to reopen in the fall. Those schools that listen and best respond to the needs of parents and students will find their districts growing. Those that don’t react will face losing students, which, in turn, results in budget cuts, school closures and for some, extinction. The numbers speak for themselves – 83% of parents are expecting some sort of change when school returns in the fall.

As the nation's leader in student recruitment, it is essential to our work that we remain knowledgeable about the driving factors for parents’ decisions. Last week, Caissa conducted an in-depth national survey on what parents want before their children return to school, and the repercussions schools may face if they do not address parents’ concerns.

Our nationwide, online survey polled parents of K-12 children and was conducted the week of June 1, 2020. The 800 completes were equally distributed among the four major census tracks in the nation to give us regional comparisons.

The goal of this survey was to determine how parents (caregivers) felt about their children returning to school in the fall, how well their district communicated with and navigated COVID-19, and the expectations parents have on returning.

The information most vital for schools is how likely parents are to consider changing schools if their expectations are not met. As school options are growing throughout the nation, parents have more choices than ever. Those that best respond to the COVID-19 pandemic will be well positioned to grow their schools.

School districts around the country set an annual target for student enrollment. Hitting that target is crucial, as registration projections direct downstream budgets for school staffing and programs. It’s critical that school administrations utilize this information and prepare their schools for success this fall.

In the report, we analyzed three major factors that could affect student enrollment: if parents demand or simply recommend additional safety protocols, how schools should reopen in the fall, and parents’ likelihood to consider leaving for another school if their concerns are not met.

SAFETY

1. 89% of parents are concerned about their child’s safety at school in relation to COVID-19.

2. 61% of parents are likely or very likely to consider changing schools if their desired safety measures aren’t met. The 25-34-year-old age group is most likely to consider leaving if safety measures aren’t met.

Recommendation: Send notices home with students about any safety updates or changes, and implement handwashing and sanitizing stations throughout the campus.

REOPENING OPTIONS

3. 83% of parents agree – they expect change in some way. Only 12% of parents are okay with things going completely back to normal, as they were prior to COVID-19.

4. If school doesn’t return to a full in-person schedule in the fall, parents are most concerned about their child being engaged in good activities, obtaining the proper resources to learn from home, and their child falling behind academically.

Recommendation: Plan for change now. Be prepared to make changes with safety and learning protocols for both in-person and at-home education.

COMMUNICATION RESOURCES

5. 77% of parents feel their child’s school communicated well during COVID-19.

6. If at-home education is required to continue in the fall, live, online classes and increased access to child’s teacher are parents’ most desired resources.

7. 60% of parents are likely or very likely to consider changing schools if their desired resources are not met.

Recommendation: Continue to communicate updates and regular reminders to parents about the upcoming school year. Additionally, be prepared to provide resources to parents whether students or completely back to in-person education or they are learning from home.

With the COVID-19 crisis continuing to impact the economy and putting a strain on state and local resources, it’s more important now than ever for school districts that are competing for students to listen to parents’ concerns and respond for the upcoming school year. These actions are essential for districts to keep their enrollment numbers up to ensure those valuable dollars remain with the district.

Want to know how you can and should communicate changes and new protocols to your school district? Caissa can help.

Reach out to us today through our contact page to learn more.

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