THURSDAY, Aug. 19, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- Almost 90% of U.S. parents plan to send their kids back to the classroom this fall, but fewer than 60% plan to get a COVID-19 vaccine for those who are old enough, a new poll reveals.
Anxiety is also high among many parents, who wonder just how safe in-person learning will be as the highly contagious Delta variant spreads nationwide and the pandemic grinds on.
"To feel safe sending their children to school in-person, most parents – especially those still unsure about in-person schooling – want classroom ventilation, teachers to be vaccinated, and social distancing in schools, in that order," said Heather Schwartz, director of Pre-K to 12 educational systems at RAND, a nonprofit research organization.
Those are key takeaways from RAND's July poll of a representative sample of 3,146 U.S. parents with kids between 5 and 18 years of age.
Though most middle and high school students are eligible for the COVID-19 shot, just 57% of respondents said they planned to get their child vaccinated, the survey found.
The percentage was higher among vaccinated parents, with about 79% planning to have their kids get the jab.
About 10% of unvaccinated parents said they planned to get shots for their children, the findings showed.
Despite a nationwide tsunami of new COVID-19 infections, including ones in children, a growing number of parents plan to send their kids back to classrooms.
In July, 89% said they planned to do so, compared to 84% in May. The percentage was higher for white parents (94%), than for Black parents (82%) or Hispanic parents (83%), the poll found.
It revealed that parents of kids under age 12 — who are too young to get vaccinated — were as likely as parents of older children to send them back to school.
COVID-19 was among the top reasons for parents who are not sending their kids to in-person school — outranking concerns about racial discrimination, bullying or schools teaching critical race theory.
At least two-thirds of Black respondents, Hispanic respondents and Asian respondents said they needed ventilation in classrooms, vaccinated teachers, social distancing, mandatory masking and regular COVID-19 testing in order to feel safe sending their kids to school.
Fewer white parents said they needed these practices in place in order to feel safe, according to a RAND news release.
Slightly more than half of parents supported voluntary, free weekly COVID-19 testing at school. About three out of four supported testing if their child showed symptoms. Parents opposed to in-school COVID-19 testing most often expressed concern that it would be uncomfortable for kids.
Despite concerns, roughly only 27% of parents knew in detail which COVID-19 safety measures their child's school had planned.
Six in 10 said they wanted to know more. That same number said a school staff member – often the principal – was their most trusted source of information about school safety measures.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers guidance for COVID-19 prevention in schools.
SOURCE: RAND Corporation, news release, Aug. 18, 2021