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Home / Blog / CRUNCHED: Family perceptions of reopening

CRUNCHED: Family perceptions of reopening

Back To School, CRUNCHED!, OUSD      January, 2021     

On Tuesday, I attended our panel (“Oakland Public Education: Where do we go from here?”) where an awesome group of Oakland education leaders shared their thoughts on the current situation and future of Oakland public education. (In case you missed the panel, we’ll be sharing a recap with some great info very soon.)

As I listened to the group bounce ideas and discussions off each other, I zoomed in on some of the data presented (of course!). After seeing lots of recent news stories about the Governor’s school reopening push, I was particularly interested in whether and how leaders were incorporating the needs of families into their planning. I dug into the data a bit to see if there were some major local trends:

Fig. 1, 2: Data from OUSD’s Future of Oakland Public Education slide deck (Jan 2021), which pulls data from the OUSD Fall Family Return to Survey 2020 Results

  • Wealthier families are much more likely to plan to send their students for in-person instruction than families that are socioeconomically disadvantaged. However, an interesting caveat is that families that can’t pay for expenses (i.e. those struggling the most economically in this climate) are almost evenly split on planning to send their students for in-person instruction vs distance learning.
  • There are some significant racial differences in families’ comfort levels with sending their students back to in-person instruction. Only 13% of White families are unwilling to send their students back to in-person instruction compared to 36% of Latinx families. I’ve seen national surveys that show this same pattern.

Fig 3. Oakland REACH ASSESS 2020 Survey data from Aug 2020 polling families’ thoughts on returning to school.

  • School safety and community spread of the virus are some of the key factors on parents’ minds. Oakland REACH works heavily with families of color; their survey results provides insight into the concerns of the most impacted families around school reopening. Given how American health systems have treated people of color historically, it isn’t surprising to see a strong concern over whether their families and students will truly be safe if school reopens. Moreover, we know that COVID has disproportionately affected our black and brown communities, who tend to have more multi-generational households and homes that include essential workers.

The data from OUSD was mostly from the fall, with the survey reopened in December. REACH’s family data was from August. While many things were similar between Fall and now (i.e. the pandemic is still ongoing), there are many things that are different that informs the context. Some factors to consider:

  • Vaccinations have started – hooray!
  • Almost half a year of distance learning – some kids are thriving, others are zoomed out
  • Recent huge spikes in COVID cases and hospitalizations (as Superintendent Johnson-Trammell pointed out in her newsletter)
  • Extended shelter-in-place orders as a response to the recent surges, where many businesses have had to scale back, which of course affects jobs

As the pandemic continues and the surrounding context constantly evolves, we can expect that parents are also constantly re-adjusting their thoughts and plans to incorporate new developments and info. Add into that mercurial mix the wide range of experiences (cultural, socioeconomic, family values) that each Oakland family has. It’s a huge range of opinions and thoughts that continue to evolve. This means that we probably need to do more surveying + listening, and/or make sure that anyone who does survey families continues to engage in an ongoing feedback process. Imagine the wealth of data we’d have if everyone – OUSD (like via their dashboard), charters, and community advocacy orgs like REACH – pooled together their most current info. Having this information is essential so that school and system leaders can put the voices of families front and center and design any reopening plans around our most vulnerable families’ evolving needs.


My name is Carrie Chan, and I’m Educate78’s data analyst (aka resident data nerd and cruncher). As a former OUSD student, I care a lot about Oakland public schools. This blog series, “Crunched!”, takes a data-driven approach to important, relevant questions facing Oakland public schools, sharing out easily digestible data takeaways. Please email me with ideas, requests, or feedback.


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