In late spring, it appeared the United States had begun to “flatten the curve” of coronavirus spread. However, summer months have brought a large increase in the number of confirmed cases in many states.
With this recent uptick, it seems likely that many schools will operate on a partial or completely remote learning model for the fall. However, there is much uncertainty about exactly what school will look like for the 2020-2021 school year.
A state-by-state breakdown of school reopening plans shows many states still have “no specific guidance” about the school calendar, student expectations, safety and sanitation standards, and the work of school support personnel.
Most state plans are in progress or include some general guidelines that districts need to meet for re-opening. In many cases, the important details are left up to the decision of local school districts.
With all this in mind, parents in the Outschool community recently shared their experiences with navigating school closures in the spring and their concerns about sending children back to school in the fall.
Our survey included over 1,100 parents who recently signed up for an Outschool account. The results have important implications for families, teachers, and school administrators across the country.
It’s important to note that the vast majority of this group sent their kids to public school during the 2019-2020 school year where 97% of those schools closed due to Covid-19 this past spring.
Here are some of the most important findings from the survey:
- Nearly 2/3 of parents (61%) are not comfortable sending their children back to school in the fall until a vaccine is found
- Almost 40% of parents said school closures made them more likely to consider homeschooling their children in the future
- 60% of parents rated their child’s remote learning experience as average or below average (a 3 or below on a 5-point scale)
- Almost half of respondents (46%) said their school has not communicated a plan for bringing their child to school in the fall
Parents also shared their hopes and concerns in the Outschool Online Learning Community, with comments echoing the findings in the survey.
Responses shared a theme of uncertainty about the future. “Our biggest concern is balancing work with uncertain schools and being more involved in our kid's education,” Alison Sayer-Butler said.
Besides the uneasiness that comes with not knowing if schools will open, parents are also concerned about their children’s progress. Kids depend on the social support that live learning brings, both from peers and teachers.
“I am worried that [my daughter] will fall behind without the right kind of support. She is a very social kid and being able to interact with the teacher is very important to her style of learning,” Kirsten Langwick-Temples said.
Now that parents have already experienced at least a quarter school year as remote learning, they have a better sense of what to expect. This makes some aware of the areas where they may have to “fill gaps” in remote learning.
“If we are still remote for even half the time, I will need help filling gaps that inevitably happen. For instance, our brick and mortar school did great with math remotely, but writing really fell off the radar,” Jenny Gill said.
It’s clear that parents have several valid, lingering questions, including:
- Did my child make academic progress during quarantine?
- Where will they be compared to the other kids this fall?
- How can I support my child in having consistent, meaningful social interactions with other children while still following health guidelines?
- My kids are bored! What opportunities are there for kids to have fun at home while still making progress academically?
And unlike this spring, parents know what’s coming if schools close. Many felt the challenge of educating kids at home, often while working or caring for other children.
Fortunately, families have learned about the wealth of options available to help them navigate homeschooling or a hybrid approach that they develop themselves.
Outschool can help bridge the gap with flexible options for every family’s needs:
- Browse semester courses where learners dive deep into subjects and develop skills
- Explore weekly ongoing classes where learners discuss favorite topics and bond over shared interests
- Read the How We Outschool profile of Nicole Olson, a mother of four who practices Unschooling
While the details of the 2020-2021 school year are still hazy, one thing is clear: parents are thinking carefully about their decision to send their children back to school.