By Daniel Katzive
A survey of parents with kids in public schools on the West Side found a majority felt safe sending their kids to school just after the peak of the Omicron wave in January, but also expressed broad support for increased testing and better masking. The survey, conducted by the District 3 Community Education Council (CEC3), was run between January 11 and January 21, 2022. While case numbers have subsequently dropped sharply, the CEC’s report on the survey notes the results could provide input for policy decisions in possible future waves.
Parents with kids in public schools in the District were asked “Strictly related to Covid, how safe do you feel sending your kids back to school right now?” Responses were on a scale of 1 to 6, with 6 being the safest end of the range, and the instructions indicated “answering 4 or higher indicates you feel it is safe enough to send your kids to school.” Parents could then provide long form responses to questions about changes that they would like to see or other concerns.
Out of 856 total responding families representing at least 1,170 students, 69.5% responded with a 4 or higher rating, indicating they felt safe sending their kids to school (92% were, in fact, sending their kids in).
Two members of the CEC3 committee which organized the survey, Jeanie Ahn and Victor Lin, spoke with the West Side Rag and noted that, while there was a lot of polarization in the responses to the survey, a few common themes did emerge:
1) A preference for greater consistency in protocols across different schools and programs, most notably across pre-K and elementary school programs;
2) Calls for better and more consistent remote instruction;
3) Clearer and more consistent communication from the DOE and school administrations; and,
4) The importance of masking and compliance with masking rules.
The committee members also noted that they were struck by the number of comments from parents recognizing the hard work that teachers were doing and the challenges they faced in the current circumstances.
Unsurprisingly, parents who did not feel safe sending their kids to school tended to express the most support for more remote study options. Only 57 respondents directly called for a vaccine mandate, while five indicated they opposed one. Only 23 respondents called for unconditionally eliminating mask requirements.
CEC3 noted one caveat in interpretation of the survey results was that respondents who indicated they did not feel safe sending their kids to school were more likely to answer the long form response questions than those who felt safe. A few schools were also heavily represented in the number of responses, with two-thirds of the responses coming from five out of the total of 30 schools in the district.
Going forward, the survey committee members indicated they view this survey as an example of the kinds of outreach CEC3 can do more of, using technology, to ensure they are hearing from a broader array of parents and families who may not have time to attend meetings. They emphasized a need to hear from families of students in all thirty schools in the district as much as possible.