Survey shows Maine parents and students hope for in-person return to school this Fall

Andrew Charleson, left, and Irene Song read assignments on Google Chromebooks during an advanced 6th-grade reading class at Ridgeview Middle School in Gaithersburg, Md., on Nov. 6. Apple products are being replaced as the inexpensive, cloud-based Chromebook makes inroads in to K-12 schools. In Montgomery County, Md. roughly 40,000 Chromebooks are being deployed to students. --T.J. Kirkpatrick for Education Week

A survey conducted by Rep. Justin Fecteau and Rep. Heidi Sampson indicates that Maine students are eager to return to school in person, rather than online, this Fall. 

The Back-to-School Survey, which ran from July 5 to July 9, garnered 10,310 responses. Parents, grandparents, and guardians made up roughly 90 percent of respondents. Educators and administrators, school board members and K-12 and college students also weighed in, though in smaller numbers. 

Survey responses make the desire for a return to in-person instruction clear. Nearly 80 percent of respondents agree with the statement, “My student wants to resume in-person instruction  beginning this fall.” 

Only 12.7 percent of respondents, on the other hand, agree that remote learning is preferable to in-person instruction. 

Responses also echo concerns from pediatricians that school closures will negatively affect students’ mental health. Roughly 75 percent of respondents agree that student mental health during COVID-19 is “a major concern.” 

Although most respondents agree that students should return to school in person, they depart in their beliefs on what that return should look like. Around 25 percent of respondents agree that students should wear masks and face coverings for the school day, while roughly 60 percent disagree with a mask mandate. 

Respondents also expressed concern that COVID safety guidelines will diminish the quality of education. 47 percent of respondents disagreed with the statement, “Students can still learn effectively in an environment with safety guidelines, such as social distancing and masks/face coverings.”

Trust that the state and school districts will direct and devise the best plans for schools also wavers. Roughly 43 percent of respondents indicate that they trust their district to make the best decisions for returning to school, while only 27 percent say they trust that the Mills administration and Department of Education have students’ best interest in mind. 

A small group of respondents demonstrated interest in pursuing learning options independent from the state. Roughly 28 percent of respondents said they are considering homeschooling or private school next year. Still, 58 percent of respondents indicated that they are not considering moving away from public schooling. 

It will ultimately be up to local school districts (who will receive guidance from the state) to decide whether students will return in person, and what that return will entail. If they listen to those they are serving––students––as well as parents, medical professionals and pediatricians, the decision should be clear: resume in-person instruction, and work to create reasonable safety guidelines. 


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