By Angela Gutierrez
As summer winds down and students return to school, parents are faced with greater challenges and concerns than ever before. While the President has pushed for schools to reopen, school parents worry about the safety of their children in the midst of a global pandemic. Latino Decisions ran a survey for Somos and UnidosUS from August 7-15 that asked Latino parents about their feelings on sending children back to school. The survey is a representative sample of 1,842 Latinos in the US with 838 participants who have children under the age of 17. Interviews are based on a mix of phone and online responses that were offered in both English and Spanish.
School re-opening put parents in uncertain, and complicated territory; 85% of respondents worry that their children will be exposed to Coronavirus at school, 59% of respondents said they are very concerned while 26% said they are somewhat concerned. Parents are also concerned that teachers will be at risk.
At the same time, 44% of respondents are concerned that students are not learning enough via remote learning, and have faced new challenges with the online learning format; 34% of parents say they did not receive training or instructions on how to assis
t their children online, and 52% of Latino households say they will have issues connecting online to a remote classroom. Meanwhile, 38% of respondents say that they do not have enough computers for all of their family members to go to school and work from home. Additionally, 34% do not have high-speed WiFi to connect to classrooms. While some schools are offering hotspots, they are not always sufficient for families with multiple children trying to connect to their classrooms at the same time. These technical logistics are particularly difficult for low income families who do not have the resources to pay for better WiFi or purchase new devices for their children.
Because of the switch to online learning, and cuts to education, many school districts have been forced to cut back on additional resources that are generally available during the normal school year. This is a serious concern for Latino parents; 36% say that they are concerned about losing access to special education programs and an additional 30% say that they worry about having access to English language assistance programs in the online learning format. English language assistance is crucial for children in predominately Spanish households, who are better able to develop their English language skills in small groups and on a one to one basis. Adding to the concern of not having access to these programs, 36% of Latino parents say that they do not have anyone who can stay home with their children and supervise at home learning.
But despite these challenges, a majority (79%) of parents say that Governors should continue to listen to health experts, scientists, and teachers, and support a gradual phased in approach to face-to-face learning. Only 21% of Latino respondent believe that we should quickly reopen schools.
In the meantime, parents feel that there are ways to improve the online learning experience. The first is that they would like more communication from the schools about the expectations for their children, and where their children stand on assignments and student performance. Among our respondents, 82% of Latino parents said their children could spend more time engaging with their teachers, either through longer live lessons online or on the phone, and parents would also like to see one-on-one tutoring available. This extra attention would be especially useful for children whose parents do not speak English and may not be able to provide the extra at home support that after school programs generally provide. A majority of parents said they would like information to be sent to their household in English and Spanish.
One thing is for sure, whether children are going back to the classroom or starting their school year virtually, now is the time for federal and state government to increase funding for education so that students and teachers can make the most out of teaching and learning in this unique situation.
Angela Gutierrez is an analyst and research methodologist at Latino Decisions. She is a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at UCLA. She holds a Masters in Political Science from California State University, Northridge, and a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy from The University of Southern California.