Parents comfortable with students returning to school in fall: survey

Three-quarters of Manitoba parents are somewhat or very comfortable with the prospect of students returning to physical classrooms in the fall, a new provincial back-to-school survey suggests.

On June 30, the province released the results of two surveys put out in mid-June — to poll parents and students, respectively — about their thoughts on distance learning and starting the 2020-21 school year during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Both multiple-choice surveys were available online between June 12 and 21.

A total of 30,538 respondents filled out the parent school re-entry survey. The student version documented a fraction of the submissions, with 7,000 respondents entering levels between pre-kindergarten and Grade 12 in September filling out the form. (The province did not provide a margin of error for either survey.)

The adult findings show more parents than not disagreed with the statement, “remote learning has worked well for my child/children’s learning.” Fifty-seven per cent of respondents said they either somewhat or strongly disagreed with the statement, versus the 40 per cent who somewhat or strongly agreed with it. The remaining three per cent selected unsure.

Parents felt their children especially struggled with maintaining relationships with other students during the remote learning period, according to the data.

Looking ahead to autumn, the majority of parents said they are uncomfortable with the prospect of continued distance learning. While 16 per cent indicated they are very confident in their ability to support their children’s remote learning if required, 29 per cent said they are somewhat confident, and 50 per cent said they are not at all confident.

Respondents were also asked about their level of comfort with new public health measures — in schools and on the commute to class, whether it be via school bus or public transit.

By and large, parents said they felt comfortable with new measures to make schools safer, with enhanced cleaning protocols, regular hand-washing and the use of hand sanitizer topping the list as measures perceived to make a return to in-person learning safe.

The student findings mirror the adult results on the subject of an in-person return to school in September: 75 per cent of both groups indicated they were comfortable about going back to school in September.

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