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Survey of MN parents: 11% not comfortable sending kids back to school, 24% unsure, 64% OK with it

Twin Cities Pioneer Press logo Twin Cities Pioneer Press 7/9/2020 Josh Verges
a man holding a phone: Teachers show to Oumou Salam Niang, 6, how to use a mask during the first day of school after the lockdown, at a primary school in Barcelona, Spain, Monday, June 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti) © Provided by Twin Cities Pioneer Press Teachers show to Oumou Salam Niang, 6, how to use a mask during the first day of school after the lockdown, at a primary school in Barcelona, Spain, Monday, June 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

More than one-third of Minnesota parents are uncomfortable or unsure about sending their children back to school this fall amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new survey by the Minnesota Department of Education.

Asked whether they “would feel comfortable sending your student(s) back to a classroom this fall,” 64 percent said yes, 11 percent said no and 24 percent were unsure.

Those reluctant to send their kids back to school said their main concern was public health. Daily cleaning was the most likely to make them feel more comfortable, along with small class sizes, daily health checks and a decrease in COVID-19 cases.

Gov. Tim Walz ordered all public schools in the state to close in mid-March because of the pandemic. The 11 weeks of distance learning to end the 2019-20 school year went badly for 53 percent of respondents, the survey found.

The top three challenges they cited were a lack of student empowerment, mental health challenges related to the pandemic, and hard to understand lessons.

The survey, which yielded over 134,000 online responses between June 15 and July 6, will be used to inform a decision from state officials about whether schools can reopen and, if so, what precautions they should take. That decision is expected no later than the week of July 27.

WHITES MORE COMFORTABLE

The survey found significant differences in how people of different races feel about the return to school.

While 65 percent of whites are comfortable with the idea of in-person classes, that figure was 50 percent for Black parents, 49 percent for Latinos and 39 percent for Asians.

People of color also have had much higher rates of coronavirus infection in Minnesota.

The large number of white respondents to the survey presented a somewhat more optimistic view of a return to school. Eighty-seven percent of survey respondents who gave their race were white, while just 65 percent of the state’s K-12 students are white.

If the survey respondents were in equal proportion to student demographics, about 60 percent would have said they’re comfortable with sending their children back to school.

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