Only 31% of Americans think return to school is safe

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In a new study, researchers found that nearly two-thirds of Americans do not believe it is safe for K-12 students to return to school.

Only 31% of people responding to the survey think returning to school is very safe or somewhat safe.

The research was conducted by a team at Rutgers University.

Across the US, schools and parents are debating whether to choose face-to-face, online or hybrid learning for K-12 students this fall.

The team says each option has benefits and risks as both community health and quality education hang in the balance.

Given the high uncertainty and regional differences, decisions are likely best made locally on a case-by-case basis.

In the study, the researchers polled 19,058 people across all 50 states plus the District of Columbia between July 10 and 26.

The survey found that the wealthiest people (with yearly household incomes of more than $200,000) are almost twice as likely as the least wealthy (with household incomes under $10,000) to express confidence in school safety (40% versus 22%).

Viewpoints about returning to school differed profoundly by party affiliation: 51% of Republicans but only 13% of Democrats and 24% of independents express support for reopening schools for in-person education.

Communities of color, which the pandemic has hit hard, are less likely to think school reopening is safe, the team says.

Compared with African-Americans (13%), Hispanic (16%), and Asian respondents (17%), white Americans are considerably more likely to support face-to-face education this fall (32%).

The COVID-19 Consortium for Understanding the Public’s Policy Preferences Across States conducted the study.

One author of the study is Katherine Ognyanova, an assistant professor of communication.

The study is published here.

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