MN Dept. of Ed survey: Majority of families comfortable sending children back to school

130,000 families responded; One-third 'uncomfortable' or 'unsure'

Sloane Martin
July 09, 2020 - 6:34 pm

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As President Trump pressures governors to open schools full-time this fall, a majority of Minnesota families said they’d be comfortable sending their children back to school.

Sixty-four percent to be exact of the more than 130,000 families surveyed in the Department of Education’s Fall Planning Survey, but about a quarter said they were not comfortable and more than 10 percent said they were unsure. 

A majority of parents reported a negative experience with distance learning. The biggest challenges cited were students not feeling empowered to work on their own and mental health changes during the pandemic. Another 45 percent said it was good or very good.

The data closely matched by race.

Health commissioner Jan Macolm said it’s a “shared goal” to get kids back in the classroom.

“[The Department of Education] knows, we know that distance learning is not a uniformly successful experience and leaves a lot to be desired, particularly from a child development perspective and a health equity perspective and an educational equity perspective,” Malcolm said.

Malcolm said MDH is working with the Education Department on the latest evidence on safety in schools for students as well as teachers and staff, and transmission among kids. She did not offer a timeline for an announcement but it’s expected by the week of July 27.

“Even as our staff are helping to provide guidance on the discussions related to school opening, we’re also looking at how we can best monitor activity in schools so that we can, as the commissioner said, ensure that it’s a safe learning environment for staff and teachers,” State Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics supports a return to schools for students’ wellbeing, but as recently as last week the CDC’s guidelines encouraged distance learning. 

Minnesota is considering three scenarios for the fall: in-person, distance, or a hybrid of both.

The Education Department said it would use the survey to help inform the decision about the fall semester.

Forty-three percent of parents reported a child or family member who was medically fragile. 

A strong majority of those who were unsure said they’d feel more comfortable if there were smaller classes as well as daily health checks and cleaning.

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