August 24, 2021 – PLACE NYC conducted a survey on school reopening; more than 5,000 parents responded within 48-hours. Results show parents being clearly divided on their ideal return to school—some parents support in-person learning with minimal restrictions while others are more concerned about health risks. PLACE NYC’s position is a full return to in-person learning for its indisputable superior academic and mental health outcomes for NYC students.
The majority of survey respondents (52%) want their students to return to in-person learning, with 54% supporting DOE’s mask mandate and 46% who want masks to be optional. 37% want remote only and 11% prefer a hybrid. The Mayor and DOE leadership maintain that a remote option will not be available.
For parents who prefer “In person” learning, 56% said they wanted a vaccination mandate for teachers and school staff. When it comes to mandated masking, the results slightly varied: 53% support the mask mandate policy for schools, while 41% do not agree and 6% were not sure (Note: the survey did not make the distinction between indoor and outdoor masking, both of which are required). Consistent with CDC guidelines, the DOE is preparing to have all students return to school and has said they will strive for 3ft social distancing when possible but will not require it—63% of the parents supported 3ft (or less) social distancing and 13% were “not sure,” and the remaining 24% did not support the DOE’s policy.
There were clear geographical delineations—A slim majority (51%) of Manhattan parents surveyed supported the DOE’s current plan of in-person with mandated masking as their ideal policy. Parents in south Brooklyn and north Queens notably prefer a remote-only option which seems to coincide with where there were high percentages of families who opted for remote learning last year. A majority of Staten Island parents favored in-person with masking optional. Respondents from the Bronx also favored in-person learning but supported the mask mandate by a margin of two to one.
For student athletes who participate in PSAL, the DOE recently announced its updated policy for the “high-risk” programs which was severely limited during the 2020-21 school year. Only 18% of parent respondents agreed with DOE’s vaccination mandate for high risk sports; however 31% support vaccines or weekly testing, while 28% want participants in all sports to be vaccinated.
Maud Maron, PLACE NYC’s Vice President, expressed frustration with DOE’s lack of outreach and planning “it’s like Groundhog Day—we lived through this last summer. Parents, principals and students are all feeling deep uncertainty about how school will actually work and 18 months into this pandemic there is simply no excuse for this amount of confusion.”
“The confusing guidance coming from city, state and federal elected representatives and health officials has added to the lack of trust and faith in our leaders. This lack of trust has not only made returning to school more difficult, but will also exacerbate learning loss and place more students at higher risk of neither catching up, nor completing high school.” added Lucas Liu, PLACE NYC’s Co-President.
The three top reasons for families possibly not returning to NYC Public Schools were: “Prefer remote learning” (30%), “I don’t trust DOE to keep my child safe from Delta variant” (29%), and “I’m waiting for a vaccine for under 12yo children” (25%). Of those who are not planning to return to DOE schools, 75% plan to homeschool, 17% are looking for private, parochial or charter schools and 8% are moving out of NYC. If these families follow through, this will have significant funding implications for many schools across NYC, especially for those schools that have already lost almost 10% of their enrollment. Regarding after school programs, 71% of respondents were concerned with being able to find local programs and/or affordable options, or not sure of plans at this time.
It is a travesty that NYC students suffered detrimental learning loss in the past year. With additional federal funding, we need to assess where our students are and provide the remedial support to catch up. It is critical that the DOE responds to parents’ concerns on school reopening and we hope PLACE NYC’s School Reopening Survey is a positive step towards solutions.