Should schools reopen in the fall? Here’s what parents of K-12 students say

Linley SandersData Journalist
July 18, 2020, 12:00 PM UTC

President Donald Trump has emphasized the importance of reopening schools in the fall term in spite of the nation’s continued spread of COVID-19. 

“The president has said unmistakably that he wants schools to open,” White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said during a press briefing on Thursday. “And when he says open, he means open in full, kids been able to attend each and every day at their school. The science should not stand in the way of this.” 

A Yahoo News/YouGov Poll indicates that parents — and Americans overall — disagree with the president’s idea, despite the challenges presented by virtual learning. When forced to choose between fully reopening schools this fall and limiting the spread of the coronavirus, three-quarters of Americans (77%) say that, “America’s priority should be to limit the spread of the coronavirus, even if it means students can’t physically return to schools.”  

That majority consensus applies to parents of children who will attend K12 schooling in the fall (72%), Democrats (95%), Independents (72%), and Republicans (58%).

Only about one-quarter of Americans (23%) believe that the country's priority should be to fully reopen schools, as the Trump administration says. Parents of K-12 students are not pushing to reopen schools, either. Only about three in 10 parents (28%) say that the main goal of the United States should be to fully reopen schools in the fall, even if there is an increased risk to public health.  

Americans overall are about three times as likely to say that local schools should offer all classes online (42%) or offer a mixture of in-person and online classes (43%) rather than return to only in-person learning (15%). Just one in five parents of K12 children supports all in-person learning (20%).  

However, if schools do reopen for in-person instruction, about two in five (39%) parents will send their children to classes. About three in 10 parents remain uncertain (29%), and one-third (32%) say they will not allow their child to attend school in-person. 

That doesn’t mean that keeping schoolchildren at home for virtual learning would be easy to navigate for those parents. One-third of parents (36%) say they don’t have the time and resources needed to supervise online learning. One in five (20%) parents say they do not have the technology needed to ensure their child can access online classes. 

A plurality of K12 parents (47%) also believe that children learn less through online schooling. About one-third (37%) say that virtual and in-person learning is about the same, and just one in fourteen parents (7%) believe their child would learn more in a digital classroom. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, seven in 10 parents of K12 students (71%) are very concerned or somewhat concerned about children falling behind because of the pandemic. Just 27 percent are not concerned about COVID-19 causing academic deficiencies. 

Related: Registered voters believe Joe Biden can handle coronavirus, but not the economy 

See the toplines and crosstabs from this week’s Yahoo News/YouGov Poll   

Methodology: The Yahoo! News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,504 US adult residents interviewed online between July 11-14, 2020. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, as well as 2016 Presidential vote, registration status, geographic region, and news interest. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all US residents. The margin of error for the entire sample is approximately 3.2%.   

Image: Getty