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More than 1 in 3 Minnesota parents reluctant to send kids back to school, survey finds

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% said yes, 11% said no and 24% 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% 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 more than 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 with returning

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

While 65% of whites are comfortable with the idea of in-person classes, that figure was 50% for Black parents, 49% for Latinos and 39% for Asians — even as Asian respondents were the most likely to say distance learning went well.

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% of the state’s K-12 students are white.

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

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