New New Jersey Poll Shows Large Racial and Partisan Gaps When It Comes to Speed and Safety of School Reopenings

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Following Governor Murphy’s announcement that all New Jersey schools will return to full-time, in-person learning in the fall, Newark-based non-profit Project Ready conducted a statewide poll of 1,215 New Jerseyans to find out what parents think of the decision.

The poll found support for returning to full-time, in-person learning overall, with 86 percent of New Jerseyans and 88 percent of parents supporting the idea. However, the survey also found significant disparities between what Black and white residents think about the decision. Black residents were 5 times as likely as white respondents (20% to 4%) to say they are opposed to a full reopening in the fall.While 90% of white parents support the move, only 66% of Black parents do.

“While New Jersey has announced that schools will return to in-person learning full time in the fall, not all parents are comfortable with the idea yet,” said Project Ready Executive Director Shennell McCloud.

“There is a significant gap between Black and white residents’ support for this decision, which is no surprise given how hard the pandemic has hit Black communities. Some parents remain understandably concerned about the safety of their children, and it is incumbent upon schools to go the extra mile to address their concerns and build trust with parents as they plan for reopening in the fall.”

Concerns cited by parents included general ongoing concerns about safety, children not being vaccinated, not trusting children to wear masks and maintain distance, and the experience last year when cases dramatically increased during the fall.

Other key findings from the poll include (you can view the full poll results and crosstabs here):

Most parents think schools have reopened too slowly, but a racial and partisan gap exists:

  • Overall, by 52% to 13%, parents think schools in NJ have reopened too slowly rather than too fast.
  • Black parents are more evenly split (28% too slowly, 25% too fast) whereas white (57%-8%) and Hispanic parents (46%-23%) are much more likely to say schools have reopened too slowly.
  • There is a very large partisan gap: 89% of Republicans say schools have reopened too slowly compared to 15% of Democrats, most of whom (52%) think reopening has gone at the right pace.

Parents mostly say in-person learning is going well

  • Among parents whose children are back in school, 88% say it’s going well versus 11% who say it’s not going well.

More than 1 in 4 parents are choosing remote learning even with the option of in-person school

  • Overall, 45% of parents say their child is learning in-person, 11% say they are remote because they don’t have the option for in-person, and 28% are choosing remote learning even though in-person school is available
  • Among the 28% of parents choosing remote learning even though in-person learning is an option, the things that would make them more comfortable with returning their child to school in person are if all school staff are vaccinated (46%), if overall COVID cases go down further (41%), if their child is vaccinated (38%), and improved ventilation (34%).

Most parents are concerned about the impact on their child’s mental health

  • Parents’ biggest concerns from the disruption to learning during the pandemic are their child’s mental health/emotional well-being (56%) and their child’s long-term success in school (44%). One in four (24%) are concerned about not completing the curriculum
  • One in 6 parents (16%) are concerned about not being able to provide financially because of needing to be home during the school day, but Black parents (25%) are three times as likely as white parents (8%) to report this concern, along with 14% of Hispanic parents.

This article originally appeared at NJEdReport.com.

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