National Survey Shows Shift in Parents’ Thinking About Key COVID-related Challenges Facing Students

As students experience a second pandemic-era school year, parents across the country face new worries: “Will my child contract COVID-19 at school and get sick? Is my child’s school safe? How can I support my child’s social and emotional well-being?”

These questions and others became the basis for a National Online Parent Survey, supported by the CDC Foundation. Conducted by the National PTA and Edge Research, in partnership with HCM Strategists, this survey followed a similar survey taken in August 2021 which showed that parents worried considerably about their children staying healthy, following safety measures and experiencing elevated stress and anxiety.

Conducted in November 2021 and released in January 2022, the new survey found that parents were feeling more comfortable about their children’s health and safety than they did in August. Seventy percent of parents surveyed in November were more comfortable having their children attend school in-person, as compared to 60 percent of parents surveyed in August. However, concerns about their child contracting COVID-19 remained a top worry, especially among parents of color.

Although the survey was conducted before the widespread outbreak of the Omicron variant, the results are promising. As the virus has evolved, parents and schools have adapted. Schools have largely implemented protocols that align with parent priorities: staying home when sick, handwashing, social distancing, cleaning and disinfecting. School leaders have also increased efforts to reduce COVID safety-related bullying in schools.

“Teachers and caregivers should feel encouraged by the shift in perspective reported in November’s survey,” said National PTA President Anna King. “Parents were feeling less anxious about their ability to keep their child safe while in school.”

The national conversation on student mental health has many parents paying close attention to how their children are faring. From August to November, parents reported an increase in their child’s positive emotions and a decrease in negative ones. They also reported they were more actively engaged in supporting their child’s mental health and a desire for more resources to support their child’s social and emotional well-being.

As the pandemic continues, it is critical that parents and schools continue to have the tools they need to protect their children and help them thrive in school.

“This latest survey from the National PTA was taken at a point in time when parents felt more optimistic about their child’s return to the classroom,” said Dr. Judy Monroe, president and CEO of the CDC Foundation. “While I’m hopeful this trend continues, we need to take action, and get our children who are eligible vaccinated, and have them practice safe measures at school. Our children are our greatest treasure, and we need to protect them.”

Read NPTA’s recent press release to learn more.

This project was supported by the CDC Foundation by way of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and as part of a financial assistance award totaling $447,531 with over 99 percent funded by CDC/HHS and $2,400, less than 1 percent, funded by non-government source(s). The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by CDC/HHS or the U.S. Government.

LSamuel headshot for website
Lily Samuel is a communications officer for the CDC Foundation.