School’s out: Will parents send their kids back to school if they open?

Abacus Data Bulletins are short analyses of public opinion data we collect. For more information or media interviews, contact David Coletto.

Our team has been tracking Canadian perceptions and attitudes around the pandemic for almost two months. As provinces start executing plans to re-open the economy, one question many are asking is: will people re-enter the economy after it re-opens?

Some provinces have already announced plans to re-open some schools.

In our most recent survey, we asked 517 Canadian parents whether they are likely or not to send their kids back, if schools open in their areas.

Here’s what we found:

Overall, 18% say they are certain to send their kids back, 26% are likely to, 22% are unlikely to, and 13% say they are certain not to. 21% are unsure.

Parents living in Quebec and Ontario were the most likely to say they are unlikely to send their kids back to school.

And not surprisingly, there’s a relationship between one’s overall concern about the pandemic and their willingness to send their kids back. 47% of parents who say they are extremely or very worried about the pandemic say it’s unlikely they will let their kids return to school if schools open in their area, about 20 percentage points higher than those less worried about the pandemic.

Also noteworthy, parents of kids in high school are about as likely to feel comfortable sending their kids back to school as those with kids in elementary school only. And parents in households that make less than $50,000 per year are just as likely to feel uncomfortable about sending their kids back than those in high-income households.


We are entering a new phase of the pandemic. The reset. The emergence. Will Canadians stick their toe in or dive in?

But just because the economy is re-opening doesn’t mean people will feel comfortable in it.

Here s another case and point: Less than half of Canadian parents say they are certain or likely to send their kids back to school if schools in their area open.

As long as people feel there’s a chance they might get COVID-19, that there’s a chance for a second spike in infections, and there’s a risk to their health or that of their loved ones, expect caution and a slower return to normal.


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Our survey was conducted online with 517 Canadian parents of elementary or secondary aged children from May 1 to 6, 2020. A random sample of panellists was invited to complete the survey from a set of partner panels based on the Lucid exchange platform. These partners are double opt-in survey panels, blended to manage out potential skews in the data from a single source.

The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 4.4%, 19 times out of 20. The data were weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Canada’s population according to age, gender, educational attainment, and region. Totals may not add up to 100 due to rounding.

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