With 56% of parents with school-age children telling ValuePenguin their kids will attend only in-person classes this fall, the question of whether children should wear masks at school is becoming more complicated for some.
The rise in delta variant cases — paired with vaccines not being available for children younger than 12 and a desire by some to get kids back to in-person learning — could be trying on parents as they try to make the best decision for their families. Ultimately, according to the latest ValuePenguin survey of 1,000-plus American parents, 74% agree that unvaccinated children should wear masks in school.
- Key findings
- 74% of parents want unvaccinated children to wear masks at school
- More than half of parents plan to return their kids fully to in-person classes this fall
- Nearly 1 in 3 parents aren’t comfortable vaccinating their eligible children
- 3 things to know about children and COVID-19
- 74% of parents with kids younger than 18 support masks for students who haven’t gotten the COVID-19 vaccination. Parents in the Northeast are most supportive (85%), while those in the South are least supportive (67%).
- 44% of parents whose children will attend school in person at least part of the time plan to require their unvaccinated kids to wear masks, and a further 31% will ask their vaccinated kids to mask up. However, 25% won’t require their children to wear masks at school regardless of their vaccination status.
- As the delta variant surges, 44% of parents say their kids won't go to in-person school full time this fall. That percentage breaks down to 27% opting for a hybrid schedule and 11% for full-time virtual school, as well as 6% who aren’t sure what to do yet.
- On the other hand, 12% of parents changed their child’s school during the pandemic so they could learn in person. Additionally, 32% of parents whose children will attend school in person this fall say their child’s learning suffered at home.
- Though COVID-19 vaccines have been approved for children 12 and older, 31% of parents aren’t comfortable allowing their age-eligible children to get the vaccine. That percentage jumps to 39% among mothers, compared with 21% among fathers.
74% of parents want unvaccinated children to wear masks at school
Among parents with children younger than 18, 74% agree children who haven’t gotten the COVID-19 vaccination should wear masks at school. Going deeper, 85% of male parents believe unvaccinated kids should wear masks at school, compared with 66% of female parents.
There are also geographic disparities around kids wearing masks at school. Parents in the Northeast (85%) and West (79%) are most favorable toward mask-wearing for kids, compared with those in the Midwest (69%) and South (67%). Regardless of the region, though, the majority of parents believe that masks for unvaccinated children should be enforced.
The numbers remain fairly consistent as parents begin thinking about their own children. Seventy-five percent of parents whose kids will attend school in person at least partially plan to require their children to wear masks at school this school year. Of that 75% of parents, 31% say they plan to make their children wear masks at school regardless of their vaccination status.
More than half of parents plan to return their kids fully to in-person classes this fall
ValuePenguin found that 56% of parents report their children will return to in-person learning this fall — far more than those who plan on continuing a hybrid or virtual-only education.
A reason for this could be 89% of parents are at least somewhat satisfied with the coronavirus-related precautions that their child’s school and district are taking this fall.
Guidance for K-12 schools is provided by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — but districts aren’t required to adopt it. The CDC updated its guidance in late July to say that teachers, staff, students and visitors should wear masks indoors, regardless of their vaccination status. But states such as Arkansas have barred mask mandates, preventing the guidelines from being enforced. Elsewhere, it largely remains up to individual states or districts.
There’s good news, however, in that 91% of parents say their kids are happy with how they’ll be learning this fall, regardless of whether that is in person, with a hybrid model or online.
Parents should talk to their children about the coronavirus pandemic to help them cope with what’s been happening since March 2020. This can include involving children in the decision-making process to ensure the best possible learning experience. And that’s happening, according to ValuePenguin’s findings.
Sixty-nine percent of parents with children planning to attend classes in person say the main reason is that their child prefers attending school in person, followed by:
- Being confident in their school’s safety precautions (36%)
- Believing that their children's learning suffered at home (32%)
- Not being able to stay home with their child (15%)
Some parents took decision-making so seriously in the past year that they changed schools so their child could attend school in person (12%).
For parents with kids who’ll be studying entirely remotely this school year, the primary reason for choosing virtual learning is because their child prefers it (62%).
Additionally, some parents are concerned about exposure to the coronavirus (44%) and believe that their child's school has not taken enough safety precautions (19%). Another 15% say their child is unable to be vaccinated yet.
Nearly 1 in 3 parents aren’t comfortable vaccinating their eligible children
There are three COVID-19 vaccines authorized for distribution in the U.S., though Pfizer's vaccine is the only one available for people 12 and older. As a result of age restrictions, many school-age children are still ineligible.
So it makes sense that 32% of parents say their child isn’t old enough yet, but another 31% of parents say they’re uncomfortable with the vaccination. According to the findings, 37% of parents say that at least one of their children has been vaccinated against COVID-19. (Back in July 2020, 45% of parents told ValuePenguin their child would definitely receive the vaccine.)
Women are almost twice as likely to say they’re uncomfortable vaccinating their kids as men (39% versus 21%). Although the survey addresses parents’ viewpoints, 57% of parents admit their children are at least somewhat anxious about COVID-19.
Ultimately, the precautions — whether masks or virtual learning — have helped keep kids healthy this past year, with 83% of parents saying their kids were sick less frequently this past school year.
3 things to know about children and COVID-19
1. Children are susceptible to the virus
Although children ages 5 to 17 are more commonly asymptomatic and less likely to develop a severe illness, they can still contract COVID-19.
In fact, estimated cumulative rates of infection and illness for these younger people are now comparable to the rates seen in adults ages 18 to 49, according to the CDC.
2. The coronavirus vaccine is free — for everyone
Regardless of your immigration status and whether you have a health insurance plan, vaccines are available for free.
Vaccines.gov is available to help Americans find a location near them. Parents with children 12 or older should specifically check for the Pfizer vaccine if the child is younger than 18.
3. COVID-19-related program available for uninsured Americans
While specific coverage for insured Americans may vary based on the health insurance provider, uninsured Americans can get help through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Uninsured Program.
The HRSA Uninsured Program allows health care providers to make reimbursement claims for COVID-19 testing, treatments and therapeutics, including telehealth, emergency room visits, inpatient and outpatient observation, skilled nursing, ventilators and more.
ValuePenguin commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 1,013 parents with children younger than 18, fielded July 21-26, 2021. The survey was administered using a nonprobability-based sample, and quotas were used to ensure the sample base represented the overall population. All responses were reviewed by researchers for quality control.