School & District Management From Our Research Center

To Offer Remote Learning in the Fall or Not? Schools Are Split

By Holly Kurtz — June 10, 2021 4 min read
Image of a teacher working with a student through a screen session.

Full-time remote instruction is likely to exit the stage for many educators and students next fall. But educators appear split on whether their schools will offer limited remote learning options for some students.

That is one of the key findings of the EdWeek Research Center’s most recent monthly survey of educators, which was conducted May 26 to June 7. A total of 893 educators responded to the nationally representative survey, including 280 district leaders, 235 principals, and 378 teachers.

The survey also found that 84 percent of teachers, principals, and district leaders say they’re fully vaccinated against COVID-19, mask requirements in schools are likely on the way out, and nearly all teachers disliked remote instruction.

Educators split on whether to continue offering remote learning options

A slight majority of teachers, principals and district leaders (56 percent) say their schools will offer at least some remote learning options when the 2021-22 school year begins. However, a substantial minority (39 percent) say they will not offer any remote options.

No educators reported that all instruction would be remote this fall.

Are educator vaccination rates topping out?

Eighty-four percent of teachers, principals, and district leaders say they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, up only slightly from 80 percent a month earlier. Among those who have not been fully immunized, 14 percent say they do not have an appointment and have not received the first of a series of shots.

Asked why they have not yet received the vaccine, educators in that category are most likely to say they want to wait to make sure that serious side effects do not emerge with time (50 percent). In addition, 29 percent believe they do not need a vaccine because they had COVID-19. (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people who have had the disease get vaccinated because “experts do not yet know how long you are protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19.“)

Asked what would make them consider seeking a vaccine, unvaccinated educators are most likely to report that they might get a shot if time passes and the vaccine continues to be safe and effective (46 percent). However, nearly as many (42 percent) can’t think of anything that would make them get vaccinated.

Eighty-nine percent of school and district leaders say that, come fall, they will not be requiring anyone to be vaccinated in order to work in or attend schools.

Mask requirements in schools are likely on the way out

Right now, the majority of school and district leaders say that all employees and students are required to wear masks in schools and district offices, regardless of vaccination status.

But come fall, that could change.

Thirty-six percent of principals and district administrators say they don’t know who will be required to wear masks when the 2021-22 school year begins.

Among those who do know, nearly half (48 percent) say no one will be required to wear masks in the fall. Roughly a quarter say masks will be required for all students and employees, regardless of vaccination status. A very small share (6 percent) says masks will only be required for unvaccinated employees. An even smaller share (3 percent) say only vaccinated students will be permitted to go without masks.

Teachers overwhelmingly disliked remote instruction

Eighty-nine percent of teachers say they taught online for the very first time during the pandemic.

So what did they think of the new experience?

Apparently, not much: Just 3 percent say that, given a choice, they’d like to continue with 100 percent remote instruction. By contrast, 88 percent would prefer to teach 100 percent in-person. An additional 7 percent would prefer to teach both online and in person, and 2 percent have no preference.

This affinity for in-person instruction is probably a positive development for teachers given that 88 percent of principals and district leaders say that, come fall, all teachers will be required to provide full-time, in-person instruction.

The impact of the pandemic on teacher dress codes

Pajamas in the faculty lounge? Flip flops beneath the teacher’s desk?

That is unlikely once most educators return to school buildings. But more than 1 in 3 school and district administrators (36 percent) do say they relaxed teacher dress codes during the pandemic, compared with just 3 percent who say their rules grew more strict. (The remainder did not change their teacher dress codes during the pandemic.)

It’s unlikely that these relaxed dress codes will continue. Just 11 percent of school and district leaders say they their post-pandemic dress codes will be more relaxed than they were pre-pandemic. An almost equal share (10 percent) say their standards will get stricter than they were pre-COVID-19. Most (79 percent) report that post-COVID policies will remain or revert to pre-COVID standards.

Among administrators who do intend to make pandemic-era dress code changes permanent, casual Fridays are the most common change, followed by eliminating requirements that male teachers wear ties or jackets/sport coats.

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