Report: Two-thirds of teens concerned about return to school

A recent Junior Achievement poll shows that students are worried about the safety of in-class instruction but also feeling uneasy about the prospect of remote learning.
By: | July 29, 2020
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School districts weighing options for the 2020-21 academic year have new data to consider from Junior Achievement and teen students.

In a recent Youth CARAVAN survey done by Engine Insights of 1,000 students ages 13-17, two-thirds said they are concerned about a return to school and nearly 40% are “extremely” or “very” concerned about going back to in-person instruction. Only a quarter of the respondents say they would prefer a live, five-day-a-week schedule.

And yet, more than half of those students (53%) believe that their previous experience with remote learning was “fair” or “poor” and only 30% said they would prefer a completely online schedule this fall. Some 36% of students would approve of a hybrid or blended-learning model, where they could attend classes two or three times per week while having distance learning the other days.

“These results show that our young people are just as overwhelmed and conflicted by current events as many adults are,” said Jack E. Kosakowski, President and CEO of Junior Achievement USA. “They also show that teens are struggling to remain hopeful in the face of the pandemic, economic upheaval, and inequity.”

One of the biggest concerns for teens surveyed was the ability of their schools to provide a healthy and safe environment for in-person instruction. Nearly half of the teens said they are worried that their parents could contract COVID-19, while more than 70% say their caregivers are worried about sending their children back to classrooms.

A number that speaks to the plight and dispair felt by many students because of the coronavirus crisis: 28% fear that their dreams won’t come true due to current circumstances.

  • Other notable concerns highlighted by teens in the survey include:
    • 26% said their family’s financial situation getting worse due to the economy
    • 21% said they will not being able to provide for themselves or their families as an adult
    • 21% said they will have to borrow too much for college

The survey was conducted July 14-19. In the week prior, Engine Insights conducted another K-12 poll of 3,010 adults 18 and older on “The Great Debate: Whether to go back to school or not”, with some intriguing results:

  • 85% said they are concerned students will not follow through on any social distancing or mask mandates being implemented by schools. That same number says they are worried about their children contracting COVID-19.
  • 88% said the quality of students’ education will be adversely affected by the pandemic.
  • 72% would prefer to homeschool children until a COVID-19 vaccine is available than send them back to school.
  • 68% said everyone should wear a mask at all times upon returning, including teachers and students.
  • 56% said all schools in their state should reopen for all students in the fall
  • 74% are comfortable with schools reopening at least 50 percent capacity.
  • 69% are comfortable with school reopening in the fall exclusively with virtual learning.

As for activities when schools do reopen, those 18-and-over respondents said only 31% should have regular clubs available while 34% believe organized team sports should be played. Only a quarter of those polled believed that school assemblies, play and concerts should be held.

Chris Burt is a reporter and editor for District Administration. He can be reached at

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