How angry are parents really about masks and other safety precautions?

'A lot of the energy, criticism that’s been happening, it’s not coming from a large chunk of the population,' pollster says
By: | November 9, 2021
Fewer than one in 10 of parents surveyed said schools have done a "very poor job" managing COVId and other priorities.Fewer than one in 10 of parents surveyed said schools have done a "very poor job" managing COVId and other priorities.

Discontent with public schools over COVID precautions is “is being driven by a vocal but small minority,” according to a new survey.

Most Americans, including more than two-thirds of Republicans, approve of how local school leaders are managing health and safety with other priorities as the nation as a whole is less worried about COVID and the delta variant, according to Tuesday’s Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

“A lot of the energy, the criticism that’s been happening, is not coming from a large chunk of the population,” Ipsos Senior Vice President Chris Jackson said. “It’s very much a tail-wagging-the-dog scenario.”

In fact, fewer than one in 10 of the parents surveyed said schools have done a “very poor job.”

The survey also found:

  •  71% of adults—and 75% of parents—said schools had done a good job balancing health and safety with other priorities since the COVID pandemic began
  • 16% of respondents said schools have done a “very good” job, while 55% said schools have done a “somewhat good” job
  • 19% said schools did a “somewhat poor” job while 8% said schools had done a “very poor” job
  • The partisan gap wasn’t significant: 68% of Republicans, 71% of independents and 78% of Democrats said schools had done a good job
  • Respondents older than 65 were the most supportive (78% good); those under 30 were the least supportive (62% good)

In a related Axios/Ipsos survey, 44% of Americans called “returning to normal life” a large to moderate risk, a decline from 56% who said the same in mid-September and the lowest since the delta surge began. The general public remains supportive of mask mandates, even in parts of the country where governors and superintendents have battled in courts over the requirements.

A majority of Texans (58%) support requiring masks at schools for students and staff, according to a new University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll.

Masks off, masks on

When it comes to those mask mandates, as many districts are lifting them as are imposing or reinstating the requirements as transmission rates fluctuate in different areas of the country.

On Tuesday, Jackson Public Schools reinstated its mask mandate until further notice due to an increase in COVID infections. The district was reporting 70 student and 15 staff cases of COVID. “We are hopeful that the vaccinations now available for all students 5-18 years old will provide relief from the spread of COVID-19,” Superintendent Jeff Beal said on Facebook. “It was last spring when the vaccine roll-out was at its peak that we began to wrestle some relief from the pandemic.”

The Bowling Green Independent School District’s mask mandate was extended by its school board until at least Dec. 13 despite Superintendent Gary Field’s recommendation to make face coverings optional as cases among students and staff decline.

And Cabell County Schools in West Virginia reinstated a mask mandate on Nov. 8 after relaxing the requirement on Nov. 1.

In Pennsylvania, however, Gov. Tom Wolf announced Monday that the state’s mask mandate will expire on Jan. 17, and local school districts leaders will decide whether to require face coverings in classrooms. “It is time to prepare for a transition back to a more normal setting,” Wolf says. “ Unfortunately, the COVID-19 virus is now a part of our daily lives, but with the knowledge we’ve gained over the past 20 months and critical tools like the vaccine at our disposal, we must take the next step forward in our recovery.”

Jenks Public Schools in Oklahoma ended a temporary mask mandate on Nov. 8 due to a steady decline in COVID cases among students and staff. Since the district mandate masks in early September, COVID cases have declined by 75%, administrators say.

In North Carolina, Brunswick County SchoolsWayne County Public Schools and Rowan-Salisbury Schools have made masks optional in the last few weeks. In Ohio, Lakota Local Schools, Nordonia Hills City School District and Scioto Valley Local School District have also recently ended their mask mandates.