MINNEAPOLIS — An informal survey of Minnesota families collected by the Minnesota Education Department found that most parents want to send their kids back to school this fall, and of those who do, 94% want them in the classroom full-time.
The survey results come as Gov. Tim Walz is weighing a decision on whether he'll allow schools to re-open, or continue distance learning this fall. Walz and Deputy Education Commissioner Heather Mueller previously asked all schools to be ready for the possibility of three different scenarios: full-time classroom teaching, full-time distance learning and a hybrid model.
Of the 134,082 responses to the survey posted on the Education Department's website between June 15 and July 6, 64.3% reported they are comfortable sending their children to a classroom this fall, 24.3% were unsure, and 11.4% said they would not be comfortable.
Concerning distance learning, 42.3% said their experience was bad and 10.3% said very bad, while 35.2% said it was good and 9.5% said very good. The remaining 3.8% said the experience was the same as in-person.
Of the parents who said they are not comfortable sending their student back to a classroom, 83.5% cited their concern about public health. Parents responding to the survey were allowed to choose more than one reason for this question, and 42.8% said their child or family is medically fragile, and 38% of those respondents said distance learning went well for their children.
The survey also asked for more information from parents who said they would "maybe" be comfortable sending their children back to school. The question asked, "What would make you feel comfortable sending your child back to school?"
Of those parents, 87.2% said daily cleaning of surfaces, 76% said smaller class sizes, 72.2% said daily health checks, and 69.2% said a decrease in the number of COVID cases would make them feel more comfortable.
The survey is not a scientific representation of all parents in Minnesota. The Department of Education and Governor's office publicly encouraged parents to complete the survey online last month.
Walz previously promised to make a decision on schooling by late July.
Education Minnesota President Denise Specht responded to the survey on Thursday, saying in a statement, “There is currently no plan for opening schools that doesn’t come with trade-offs between safety, educational effectiveness and sustainability."
“We need to come together - parents, educators, scientists, community leaders and policy makers - to find the right solutions for the students of Minnesota,” Specht said. “There will be some give-and-take, but there must also be a common understanding that the educator’s job is to educate and the health of students and educators should not be sacrificed to an economy rigged to benefit the richest 1 percent and the largest corporations. Working people are in this pandemic together, and only together can we make a Minnesota that works for all of us, no exceptions."