Learning loss beats COVID as top school reopening concern

Views on risks vary among racial and ethnic groups and along party lines
By: | February 24, 2021
Adults surveyed this winter also ranked social-emotional well-being and parents' ability to work as greater concerned than teachers or students transmitted COVID.Adults surveyed this winter also ranked social-emotional well-being and parents' ability to work as greater concerned than teachers or students transmitted COVID.

More Americans now say learning loss should outweigh COVID fears as more schools reopen, and research shows in-person learning poses a low transmission risk.

Adults surveyed by the Pew Research Center appeared confident that new CDC guidance on safely reopening K-12 schools can prevent the spread of COVID.

However, views varied among racial and ethnic groups and along party lines:

Black, Hispanic and Asian adults—as they have throughout the pandemic—were more likely than white adults to say school reopening decisions should include strong consideration of the risks of students and teachers spreading COVID.


More from DAUnion leader renews push for prioritized teacher vaccinations


Black adults were particularly likely to say health risks should be a major factor in deciding whether to reopen.

Lower-income adults and Democrats were more likely to share these views.

A majority of adults (59%) said K-12 schools that are still closed to in-person learning should not reopen until teachers who want the vaccine have received it. Yet, 40% of respondents said closed schools should reopen as soon as possible, regardless of the vaccination rates.

Some of the survey’s results show a significant change in thinking compared to last summer.

In July 2020, 48% of adults said learning loss should be a major concern for reopening schools. In February, 61% of adults cited academic progress as a reason to return to in-person instruction.

Concerns over students getting COVID shifted by a similar degree, with 45% of adults now saying the virus should be a top concerns, compared to 61% who said the same last summer.

Adults this winter also ranked social-emotional well-being and parents’ ability to work as greater concerned than teachers or students transmitted COVID.


More from DA‘Supermajority’ of teachers ready for schools to reopen