Poll: Parents want full classrooms by fall

More parents want their children back in classrooms this fall even if they aren’t comfortable sending them back into school buildings now, according to a new WBUR-Dorchester Reporter-The Boston Foundation poll.

Only 49 percent of parents surveyed said they want their children back in school buildings right away. But 67 percent said they wanted in-person learning come September. As in previous polls, Black and Latinx parents were more likely to hesitate about sending their kids back into classrooms.

“It’s tough,” said Tawana White of Mattapan, who helps care for her eight-year-old niece. “Yes, you want the children to go back. I feel like it’s very necessary for them. It’s their social life. ... I just would love to know there’s a great enough handle on what’s going to happen with the coronavirus between now and September, but we don’t know. It’s up in the air at this point.”

While White worries about keeping her niece from contracting the virus, she also weighs the additional mental health supports her niece could receive if she were going into a school building each day. The girl’s mother had a stroke in February last year, one month after giving birth to another child.

Each parent who spoke to WBUR mentioned mental health as a top concern.

“Number one after this year, I think kids need mental health services,” said Kevin English of the West End, who is the parent of a 14-year-old and 5-year-old. “Kids have been through more than people realize. And I think kids need to talk about what they’ve been through.”

According to the poll, more parents preferred spending federal funding on small group or one-on-one tutoring and mental health supports rather than summer school.

More than two-thirds of the parent respondents said they would like to see an expansion of early education.

“I’m not a professional teacher, so I don’t know how to teach my daughter what she needs,” Keila of Roxbury said. She asked WBUR not use her last name in order to protect daughter’s privacy. “She needs to go to school. She needs to interact with kids and not only me.”

She wished there were more vouchers available for families to enroll their kids in preschool. She said it’s most important for Boston leaders to understand the toll the pandemic has taken on everyone, especially families, and that they need help with their mental help.

“It’s been hard,” she said. “I’ve lost a lot of people and haven’t been working and just staying inside — I’ve been very mentally drained.”

This story was first published by WBUR 90.9FM on April 15, 2021. The Reporter and WBUR share content through a media partnership.