News and Commentary

Poll: Majority Of Parents Say Reopening School In The Fall Is Risky
High school final exam at J.F. Kennedy High School in accordance with the new regulations for the Coronavirus emergency (Covid 19). Rome (Italy), June 17th, 2020 (Photo by Marilla Sicilia/Archivio Marilla Sicilia/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)
Marilla Sicilia/Archivio Marilla Sicilia/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images

A large majority of parents believe reopening schools in the fall amid a pandemic is unsafe.

Over 70% of parents say that reopening schools carries a moderate to large risk for themselves, according to the latest iteration of the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index released on Tuesday. Despite the high skepticism of schools reopening, people appear to not be altering their behavior amid a current spike in coronavirus cases in the South and West. Americans continue to visit family and friends and go out to restaurants at similar rates to roughly a month ago.

The poll was conducted on July 10-13. Axios/Ipsos polled 1,063 people from a nationally representative sample of adults aged 18 years or older. The group included 219 parents with children under the age of 18. The poll’s margin of error is ±7 percentage points.

“Fewer than one in five (19%) of Americans report self-quarantining the last week, the lowest level since tracking began at the eve of the outbreak in early March,” the poll report states. “Just under half of Americans (47%) report visiting friends and relatives in the last week, a third (30%) report going out to eat, and about one in six (16%) visited elderly relatives in the last week – all essentially unchanged from levels in mid-June before the current spike in cases.”

“A third of Americans (33%) see attending in-person gatherings of friends as a large risk to their health. Additionally, over a third (37%) say dining out, just under a third (30%) say going to a salon, and over a quarter (27%) of Americans working remote or temporarily not working say returning to their normal place of employment is a large risk. All are the highest levels since mid to late May,” the report continues.

“As debate about back-to-school rages, a large majority of parents (71%) say sending their child to school in the fall is a large or moderate risk,” the report says.

The report on Americans’ views on schools comes as Washington debates over the best course of action as fall approaches. President Donald Trump and his administration are pushing for schools to open and threatening to restrict funding from school districts that resist reopening without good reason.

Democrats and teachers’ unions argue that reopening schools without proper social distancing, which is impossible for nearly every school at full capacity, is prohibitively dangerous to students, teachers, and the larger community.

Republicans such as Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas are accusing Democrats of fearmongering the threat of the virus to children, which studies suggest is nearly nonexistent. The American Academy of Pediatrics published a statement in late June “strongly” advocating for a return to normal school settings even without proper social distancing.

“Lengthy time away from school and associated interruption of supportive services often results in social isolation, making it difficult for schools to identify and address important learning deficits as well as child and adolescent physical or sexual abuse, substance use, depression, and suicidal ideation,” the AAP said. “This, in turn, places children and adolescents at considerable risk of morbidity and, in some cases, mortality.”

The AAP added that children appear to not be significant spreaders of the disease itself, saying, “Although many questions remain, the preponderance of evidence indicates that children and adolescents are less likely to be symptomatic and less likely to have severe disease resulting from SARS-CoV-2 infection. In addition, children may be less likely to become infected and to spread infection.”

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