1/3 of Parents Might Not Send Their Kids Back to School. What Does This Mean for Teachers?


1/3 of Parents Don’t Plan to Return Their Kids to School. What Does This Mean for Teachers?

Teachers and parents everywhere wait with bated breath as districts roll out plans for a safe return to school amid the coronavirus pandemic. But some families have been making decisions of their own. Ambiguous safety measures have forced parents to weigh their children’s education against health concerns, social and emotional needs, and jobs. And for many families, traditional education just doesn’t bear that much weight.

The numbers are out in states such as Michigan, Ohio, and Illinois, and surveys show that a full one-third of parents are not in favor of sending their children back to school in the fall. The remaining two-thirds that are likely to send their children to school say this with specific safety measures in mind and contingent upon the severity of the pandemic in the fall and may change their plans as new developments emerge. Should this trend continue, it will have a profound impact on teachers’ roles in the classroom.   

Social distancing might be easier than expected. 

The operative word here is might. With fewer students to schedule into classes, it should be easier to reduce class sizes to reduce risk factors for spreading the coronavirus. That is, of course, unless districts cut teaching staff to match the decreased student population.

More teachers could lose their jobs. 

If families opt for some of the pre-established virtual academies or homeschool programs, lower enrollment will slash school budgets far deeper than expected. Without government funds for these children, schools will be forced to let go of far more than the projected 300,000 teachers who already face layoffs and furloughs.

Remaining teachers will work two full-time jobs.  

Schools will try to avoid these added budget cuts by going above and beyond to retain students. This may mean creating virtual academies that run in tandem with brick-and-mortar schools. Without funds to staff these new institutions, however, the added responsibility will fall on classroom teachers to maintain both virtual and in-person instruction, most likely without added prep time or compensation.

Schools may allow infected children into the classroom. 

Of the two-thirds of families who plan to send their children to school, many of them assert their lack of choice in the matter. Parents need to get back to work, and school is the most logical childcare solution. These parents may knowingly or unknowingly send sick children to school for fear of jeopardizing their employment by staying home.  

Teachers must prepare for an influx of returning students. 

Online learning and homeschooling are challenging. Students must harness their intrinsic motivation to complete schoolwork. Parents, especially those of younger students, must make the commitment to oversee their children’s progress. When families decide that homeschooling is not working for them, teachers will have to be ready to welcome these students back into the classroom. And if this occurs after count day, they’ll have to do so without budgeted resources for these students.

Teachers will have to settle educational disparities. 

Despite the conveniences of online education, some evidence suggests that virtual learning may have negative effects on student performance. When coronavirus concerns lift and families feel safe to return their children to school, teachers will confront the task of resolving glaring inconsistencies in their students’ performance levels.

The decision of whether or not to return to school does not come easily. Parents have spent the past several months monitoring the pandemic and their school’s responses to it, and it is often with a heavy heart that they choose to sever their children’s ties to traditional education. But should they decide to return, their teachers will be there waiting for them wide (yet masked) smiles and open (yet distant) arms.

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1/3 of Parents Might Not Send Their Kids Back to School. What Does This Mean for Teachers?

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Melisa Ferguson
Melisa is a mom, world language teacher, and self-care enthusiast.
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