Parents Navigate Online vs In-Person School

(Kelly Sikkema)

By Angid Machado

School has now been session for several months now, and there is still some uncertainty among parents about how safe it is for children to have in-person instruction. Many parents say that children need the stability of school being in person and that the children are being taken care of while they are at work. A majority of parents were comfortable sending their children back to school, according to a survey by National PTA in September 2021.

Key findings of the survey:

  • 50% of parents want their child to attend school in person this fall instead of hybrid or virtually. That number decreased after the CDC’s mask guidance was updated on July 27 and is also lower among Black and Latino/a parents.
  • About one quarter of parents feel very comfortable sending their children back to school this fall. Notably, white parents were significantly more comfortable with having their child return than Black or Latino/a Hispanic parents.
  • Parents are most concerned about their children contracting COVID-19 at school and future disruptions resulting in a return to remote learning.
  • To keep children safe at school, parents rank children staying home when they are sick, cleaning and disinfecting, and handwashing as highest priorities. There is less consensus among parents around vaccines.

Another survey done by Pew Research found that 62% of parents thought that online instruction went very well or somewhat well.

The DOE and schools have instituted some protocols and guidelines to keep children safe. Children 12 and older must be vaccinated, new air conditioning was installed for ventilation, sports and after school activities have been limited, and a mandatory mask mandate is in place. But despite all these factors, attendance is much lower than before the pandemic. According to data from the New York Department of Education on November 15, attendance in New York City schools was between 80% and 95%.  Although a middle school in the Bronx by the name of Cornerstone Academy for Social Action, had an exceptionally low attendance of rate of 22.27%.

Some say students and school staff have not complying with COVID safety guidelines. “Masks are not really a priority anymore,” says Joel Machado,17, who attends school in the Christopher Columbus campus. “You see students walking the halls without masks, and no staff members are instructing them to put a mask on. And at the beginning of the school year, they told us if people tested positive for COVID and quarantined the entire classroom. Now, they keep us in the dark. I definitely don’t feel safe.” Machado says there is little to no social distancing being done on campus.

On the other hand, parents who wanted schools to be in person say it is because their children get a better education and develop social skills. “In person instruction is better in genera,” says Iris Rivera, a secretary at Notre Dame High School for Girls. “The students get the help they need when it comes to certain subjects, such as chemistry and trigonometry. It’s just better for their education overall. They don’t get the attention they need when remote learning is in effect.” A second argument made by proponents of in-person instruction is that parents need their children in school while work. When schools close, many parents had to stop going to work in person because they lacked child care.

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