Using an online survey, Parents for Public Schools of Hawai‘i (PPSH) surveyed parents and families for their thoughts and concerns on schools reopening for the 2020-21 School Year during the COVID-19 pandemic. A total of 585 family members responded to the survey offered from August 25 to September 8, 2020. The respondents’ children attended public schools in Honolulu, Central O’ahu, Leeward, Windward, Hawai‘i island, Maui/Molokai/Lanai, Kauai, and charter schools, as well as private schools.
Of the respondents’ children:
48% were elementary school learners,
29% high school students,
21% middle schoolers, and
11% were in special education and
7% spoke a language other than English as their first language.
Respondents were asked to rate how concerned they were about various issues related to the schools reopening. Their top five concerns were:
1) Children’s social and emotional needs;
2) Children not learning what they were supposed to learn this year;
3) Health and safety of teachers and staff;
4) Motivation during virtual learning; and
5) Children’s health and safety in school.
Most respondents (54%) also provided comments about their experiences. While some families did want their children to return to school as usual, more people reported not feeling that it was safe to return for face-to-face schooling, citing concerns about the health and safety of children, faculty and staff.
Family members noted the shortcomings of distance learning, including concerns about online teaching and learning, criticisms of the Acellus program, accommodations for multiple children in one household, concern for children’s social-emotional needs, teaching inconsistencies, and too much screen time.
Many families reported that planning and/or communications were confusing or inconsistent. Families say they obtained information about school changes primarily from:
1) Emails and text messages from their children’s schools,
2) School websites, and
3) Phone calls, emails and texts from their children’s teachers.
Although some called on school officials to reopen schools for face-to-face instruction, respondents generally felt that it was not safe to do so and that the health and safety of children, faculty and staff were of primary concern. At the same time, the shortcomings of distance learning for families resounded throughout the many comments including concerns about online teaching and learning, criticism of the Acellus program, accommodations for multiple children in one household, concern for children’s social-emotional needs, teaching inconsistencies, and too much screen time.
Where Families Get Information About Their Schools
The survey asked families where they found information about their schools and their children’s learning during the pandemic.
Chart 4 shows that of the ten information sources, the top three ways that respondents received information was from:
1) their schools through email and text messages;
2) their schools’ websites; and
3) from their children’s teachers through phone, email messages, and texts.