Survey: Michigan parents worried about being able to work if schools don’t reopen

A classroom with green walls and empty desks.
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Nearly 60% of Michigan parents say their ability to go to work would take a hit if schools don’t reopen in the fall, according to survey results released Monday.

The survey, commissioned by the Tri-County Alliance for Public Education, found that 26% of the parents said the impact would be significant if schools didn’t reopen, while 30% said it would have some impact. 

“Many businesses and families are already under significant financial strain due to the COVID-19 crisis, and that is only going to worsen if parents aren’t comfortable and confident in sending their kids to school and going back to work,” Gilda Z. Jacobs, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy, said in a statement. 

Jacobs, whose organization helped release the survey results, said elected officials at the state and federal level must act swiftly “to allocate additional funding to support Michigan parents during this unprecedented time.”

The responses were among the key findings of the survey of 600 parents, conducted May 30-31 using automated calling and text messaging. The Tri-County Alliance represents the interests of district leaders in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties.

After nearly three months of remote learning because of the coronavirus pandemic, school districts across Michigan are working on plans for reopening school buildings for the 2020-21 school year. On Friday, the Detroit Public Schools Community District released a draft of its plan, which includes shorter school days, alternating between in-person and remote learning for high school students, using auditoriums and cafeterias as classrooms, and providing protective equipment such as masks and face guards.

A state panel appointed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will provide recommendations on safely reopening schools. 

In addition to concerns about their jobs, 88% of the parents in the survey said schools must meet or exceed medical experts’ safety recommendations before classes open in the fall and 71% said additional safety protocols will require increased funding. In addition, 44% of the parents said their ability to pay their bills would be affected if schools don’t reopen.

Mark Greathead, superintendent of the Woodhaven-Brownstown School District, said in a statement that each of the recommendations from the state panel will likely come with a price tag attached to them.

 “Whether it be reduced class sizes that require more space and more teachers, additional bussing routes to accommodate social distancing, sanitization supplies and procedures, or emotional support resources for students, these are all expenses that aren’t in existing school budgets. We need Lansing to act quickly to accommodate the significant added costs we can expect as a result.”

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