Saskatchewan

Sask. residents not yet comfortable sending kids back to school, COVID-19 survey suggests

When asked in a survey when people would feel comfortable sending kids back to school with classrooms at normal capacity, only 18 per cent of respondents said, "right away" and only about seven per cent of respondents said within one to two months.

Majority agreed people are adhering to public health guidelines and government is keeping people safe

Students are welcomed back to school with physical distancing protocols in place at at North Vancouver, B.C., school on June 1. About a third of respondents to a Saskatchewan survey this month said it will be three to five months before they feel comfortable sending kids back to classes at normal capacity. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

A survey of Saskatchewan residents suggests people aren't yet comfortable with the idea of sending kids back to school with classrooms at normal capacity, but most agree that their neighbours are following public health guidelines.

Those results come from a June survey conducted by the University of Saskatchewan-based Social Science Research Laboratories. CBC commissioned questions about attitudes concerning COVID-19 as part of the omnibus survey.

The survey listed specific activities and asked if respondents would feel comfortable taking part in those activities.

When asked when people would feel comfortable sending kids back to school with classrooms at normal capacity, only 18 per cent of respondents said, "right away." About seven per cent of respondents said within one or two months.

The largest group of respondents (33 per cent) said they would feel comfortable in three to five months.

The survey did not collect parental data so the researchers say some of the respondents were likely non-parents who had an opinion on this question.

Jason Disano, director of the Social Sciences Research Laboratories at the U of S, said those results suggest the provincial government and school boards have work to do.

"[They] are going to really have to do a good job of convincing people that … this is the correct, appropriate thing to do, and when kids are going back to school in the fall that both the students, staff and teachers are going to be safe," he said.

More than half of the respondents said they would feel comfortable doing the following activities "right away":

  • Getting your hair cut.
  • Eating in a sit-down restaurant at 50 per cent capacity.
  • Takings kids to a playground.
  • Shopping in a clothing, shoe, or sporting goods store.
  • Returning to your office or place of work.
  • Travelling within the province of Saskatchewan.
  • Visiting with a small group of fewer than 15 friends or family members you do not live with.

Most respondents said they would need more time to feel comfortable doing activities such as:

  • Going to the gym.
  • Swimming in a public pool.
  • Travelling within Canada, but outside of Saskatchewan.
  • Going to an event or entertainment venue with more than 15 people (e.g. a birthday party).
  • Going to an event or entertainment venue with more than 50 people (e.g. a wedding).
  • Sending kids back to school with classrooms at normal capacity.

Demographic differences

In general, the men who responded to the survey were more comfortable returning to normal activities sooner than the women.

The data isn't explicit about why, but Disano said "based on a lot of the research that I've seen, [men] certainly tend to engage in ... riskier behaviours than women, on average," which might explain why men would feel more comfortable with some activities at an earlier stage.

Older people (those 55 and up) who responded to the survey also felt more comfortable getting back to regular activities compared to younger people (those 18 to 34).

The majority of respondents (85 per cent) agreed with the statements, "the people around me are following public health recommendations with respect to COVID-19," and "the provincial government ... is taking the appropriate steps needed to protect Saskatchewan residents from COVID-19."

The older the respondents, the more likely they were to agree that the people around them are following public health recommendations.

The survey included 400 respondents surveyed by phone from June 3-21. The margin of error for the survey is +/- 4.9 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

About the Author

Ashleigh Mattern is a reporter and copy editor with CBC Saskatoon and CBC Saskatchewan, and an associate producer with Saskatoon Morning. She has been working as a journalist since 2007 and joined CBC in 2017. Email: ashleigh.mattern@cbc.ca.

With files from The Afternoon Edition

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