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Reader survey: Parents anxious over face mask required for students, but excited for return to school

Parents share how life has changed since schools closed in March

Taneisha Freeman helps her son Davion Maynor, 5, to make adjustments to his new face mask Friday, June 26, 2020, in Pittsburgh's Arlington Heights neighborhood, for the Minority Emergency Preparedness Task Force (MEPTF) distribution of kits with masks, hand sanitizer, information about the coronavirus and prevention. (Darrell Sapp//Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP)
Taneisha Freeman helps her son Davion Maynor, 5, to make adjustments to his new face mask Friday, June 26, 2020, in Pittsburgh's Arlington Heights neighborhood, for the Minority Emergency Preparedness Task Force (MEPTF) distribution of kits with masks, hand sanitizer, information about the coronavirus and prevention. (Darrell Sapp//Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP)

This week, Shaw Media Illinois asked our readers a few questions on how they're feeling about schools re-opening in the fall, what has changed since schools closed in March and how they felt about the requirement for students to wear masks upon re-entering school.

This survey, while not scientific in nature, included respondents from 11 counties in northern Illinois, from everywhere from Crystal Lake to St. Charles, La Salle to Princeton, DeKalb to Rock Falls.

Some patterns emerged among the roughly 100 responses we received. A majority (60%) of parents shared they were anxious about schools re-opening and what it will mean for the spread of COVID-19. About 25% of parents who responded expressed they were grateful to spend more time with their children.

And, there was some misinformation about masks. Shaw Media spoke with Dr. Irfan Hafiz, an infectious disease specialist with Northwestern Medicine, on Friday to debunk a few mask myths. That video is available on all of our websites and YouTube.

Specifically, we asked these questions:

1) Parents: How has life changed for you and your family since schools closed in March?

2) Parents: What are your biggest concerns for schools re-opening? Or what are you excited about?

3) Parents and Students: How do you feel about the requirement for face coverings?

Here is a sample of what parents said when we asked how has life changed since school closed:

Alanna Warren of Princeton: "We have taken extra precautions by staying home, washing hands more frequently and wearing masks in public spaces where social distance can’t always happen. We have dealt with disappointment from sports being cancelled & boredom from not being able to do the usual fun things we participated in to get out of the house."

Dwayne Dittmer of Cary: "It took away the much needed structure for my kids."

Josh Spears of Streator: "This lockdown has disrupted not only our lives but that of so many business owners and their employees. On a positive note it forced our family to spend more time together doing quality activities together as a family unit."

Jenn Galloy of Plainfield: "I’m a teacher so it was extremely hard balancing my own e-learning and that of my own kids. I have two boys, one a senior and another in 4th grade. It’s been very hard with senior activities canceled."

Of the respondents who mentioned e-learning, the sentiment was universal: it was tough.

Liz Rossi of Downers Grove: "E learning set my daughter back. She went from loving school to dreading it."

Stacy Sheerer of Oswego: "Teaching my first grader and trying to work was very stressful."

Here is a sample of what parents said when we asked what they were concerned or excited about for school to re-open:

Amanda Niederberger of Maple Park: "Concerned that children are going to pass things to each other, then take those things home to their older family members. Concerned that working parents will be expected to have many different plans in place for changing positive rates."

Jennifer Smykowski of Gardner: "Extremely concerned with how the schools can accommodate the state's guidelines when most districts are maxed out on budget."

Erica Tibble of Joliet: "Masks are my concern. If they're mandatory I do not want my child to feel the anxiety that I feel with them, but he needs to be in school with other children and he wants to go."

Larraine Wimberley of DeKalb: "I have no concerns. I am excited to get them back in! They need to be with their peers and teachers!"

Shawn Kowalski of Marengo: "My biggest concern for school opening for person to person contact is what happens if a school mate becomes positive and the classmates get quarantined? Now the families as well need to get quarantined as well. Can those families afford to miss 2 weeks of work? There needs to be a national policy for sick days implemented for employees. I'm excited for the kids to be together again. Social interaction is just as important as homework."

Here is a sample of what respondents said when we asked about how they felt about a requirement for face coverings:

Ashley Davis of La Salle: "It's going to be a mess. It's also going to be hard to ensure that everyone is wearing masks at all times. What about hand washing?"

Chuck [no last name provided] of St. Charles: "We’ll go along with it as long as school opens in the fall."

Elizabeth Accardi of Dixon: "Not wild about it, but if it keeps schools open we are for it."

Kristine Meinhardt of Bull Valley: "It’s not enough. Children of all ages will struggle with wearing a mask for an entire school day. If the individual does not use it appropriately then germs can still spread. Consider the child with allergies who sneezes or blows their nose a lot. What about families washing masks.... this is yet another concern."

Kassy [no last name provided] of Ottawa: "Do not agree. I will homeschool before I make my 5 and 8 y/o wear a mask all day."

Dalton Shoffner of Rock Falls: "Not happening. My kids will be getting homeschooled."

Erica Rodeghero of Morris: "I think EVERYONE should wear a mask when they are out in public. But I do not think it’s reasonable to expect children can wear one successfully all day long."

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