Nearly 2/3 of state’s parents uncomfortable with in-person classes during pandemic

Nearly two-thirds of California parents are uncomfortable sending their children to in-person classes and do not believe schools will be sufficiently safe, according to a poll released Thursday by the California Teachers Association.

The poll, conducted in September by the Washington D.C.-based polling firm Hart Research Associates, asked 1,257 voters in the state and 527 parents of public-school students for their feelings about California’s coronavirus pandemic reopening process and the resumption of in-person classes in some areas of the state.

Approximately eight out of 10 voters in the state believe the pandemic is still a ‘serious problem,’ with a 54 percent majority believing the worst of the pandemic is still on the horizon.

With that in mind, 62 percent of parents said they would not be comfortable sending their children to school now.

In addition, 65 percent of parents said they are not confident in their school’s safety right now and 67 percent said they were not confident their school would be safe by November.

Dr. Robert Harrison, an occupational health specialist and clinical professor at the University of California San Francisco, said it’s inevitable that schools will have coronavirus outbreaks as more reopen across the state.

“We have to be prepared to both protect and respond immediately with contact tracing, testing and notification,” he said Thursday during a virtual news conference to release the poll’s results.

“We know that from experiences worldwide and from many other states around the country that have seen infections and outbreaks and school closures,” Harrison said.

Gov. Gavin Newsom and state public education officials announced earlier this year that the pandemic would force public schools to remain closed from March through the end of the 2019-2020 school year.

In addition, schools that sit within counties that are in the most restrictive section of the state’s tiered reopening system were required to begin the 2020-2021 school year fully online.

As of Tuesday, only 10 counties remained in that most restrictive tier.

CTA President E. Toby Boyd argued that a large swath of the state’s public schools are ill-equipped to safely reopen while the pandemic is still a threat, even if they are in a county that has reduced the virus’ spread.

“Our schools are antiquated,’ he said. “A lot of them are old and they don’t have the necessary filtration with the ventilation, they don’t have the space for the students to go, they don’t have the health people in place in order to make sure they” properly contact trace new cases.

Supermajorities of voters and parents both agreed that schools should take multiple ‘essential steps’ before resuming in-person classes, such as daily deep cleaning and sanitization of school facilities and buses, face mask requirements and reductions in class size.

Roughly 80 percent of voters and parents also agreed that the state’s public schools do not have the funding to handle a problem of the pandemic’s scale.

“This is a virus that needs to be taken really seriously,” Harrison said.

According to Hart Research President Geoff Garin, the poll was conducted online with participant quotas set in an effort to match the state’s population of voters and parents.

The survey of voters had a margin of error of 3 percent while the survey of parents had a 4.5 percent margin of error, Garin said.

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