Poll: 61% of parents say learning losses should weigh heavily in decision to reopen schools

By David N. Bass

Raleigh, NC – A new poll form the Pew Research Center shows that parents are increasingly concerned about learning losses due to pandemic-related school closures. At the same time, a smaller share of parents now prioritize health risks to students and teachers above academic declines due to virtual learning.

interior of abandoned building
Photo by Pixabay

Since last summer, the percentage of parents who say that academic losses due to closures should weigh heavily in reopening decisions jumped from 48% to 61%.

On the flip side, the percentage of parents who said health risks should be a top consideration declined.

“The shares saying schools should give a lot of consideration to the risk to teachers (48%) or students (45%) of getting or spreading the coronavirus are both down from about six-in-10 who said in July that each should be a major factor in decisions about reopening,” said Juliana Menasce Horowitz, associate director of research for Pew.

As with so many issues related to the pandemic, differences on reopening schools cut along party lines. Seventy-six percent of Republicans and those who lean Republican are concerned about students falling behind academically due to school closures. That compares to 51% of Democrats and those who lean Democratic.

Partisan differences also emerged on the question of whether schools should wait until teachers are vaccinated before reopening: 79% of Democrats support the idea, while 65% of Republicans say schools should reopen as soon as possible, even without full vaccinations.

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Public school classrooms may soon be reopening in North Carolina after the General Assembly passed a bipartisan measure, House Bill 37, that requires in-person instruction for K-12 students for the remainder of the scheduled 2020-21 school year. Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, has signaled that he would veto the bill but has taken no action to date.

At a news conference Tuesday, Cooper reiterated that he won’t sign the bill but declined to say whether he will veto it. The governor has until Saturday to act before the measure becomes law automatically.

David Bass is a freelance writer for Carolina Journal.