Parents are split on the risks of reopening schools and the consequences of keeping them shut

Linley SandersSenior Data Journalist
February 11, 2021, 3:00 PM UTC

Across the country, America’s school systems are grappling with when it will be safe to resume in-person learning as coronavirus variants continue to spread. The conversations are happening as the nation increases its rollout of COVID-19 vaccines — but not all teachers are given priority status, and many are being asked to return to the classroom without inoculation.

A HuffPost/YouGov poll shows that one-quarter (27%) of believe schools should be completely reopened, including 29% of parents of a K-12 student. About the same number in each group support a hybrid model where schools are partially reopened (29% and 28% respectively). One-third of K-12 parents (34%) and three in 10 (30%) Americans want schools to remain closed with only virtual learning allowed.

Most Republicans (55%) want schools fully reopened now, and one in five (21%) support a hybrid model. Democrats (40%) are more likely than Republicans (13%) and Independents (31%) to believe schools should remain online-only, although just as many prefer partially reopening (41%). Only 6% of Democrats support a complete reopening of schools.  

This may be because most Democrats (57%) believe the risks of reopening schools are greater than the consequences of keeping schools closed. Republicans believe the opposite: 60% say the repercussions of continuing remote-only learning are more significant than the concerns of increased COVID-19 cases. White Americans lean toward reopening schools (46% vs 35%), and Black Americans tend to believe they should be kept closed (25% vs 45%). 

Americans would support teacher strikes for unsafe working conditions 

In Chicago, a teacher strike was avoided after Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the Chicago Teachers Union reached an agreement to reopen the schools for in-person learning. The nation’s other largest public-school districts — New York City and Los Angeles — have managed to avoid threats of a teacher strike in their reopening plans. 

If teacher unions did choose to strike over unsafe work conditions, most Americans (56%) would strongly or somewhat support them. Just three in 10 (30%) are opposed to a teacher strike if unions feel their members are in a dangerous workplace. Four in five Democrats (83%) support such an action, while about half of Republicans (53%) oppose it. 

See the crosstabs from this HuffPost/YouGov poll 

Methodology: The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted February 3 – 7, 2021 among U.S. adults, using a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population. The margin of error for the sample is ± 3.4%. 

Image: Getty