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State survey: Majority would feel comfortable sending students back to school in fall

Sixty-four percent of respondents to a Minnesota Department of Education survey said they would feel comfortable sending their students back to school in the fall.

The Department of Education on Thursday released the results of the Fall Planning Survey for Families, an informal survey of Minnesota families on their experience with distance learning this past spring as well as their thoughts on the upcoming 2020-21 school year.

Between when the survey opened on June 15 and when it closed on July 6, the Department of Education collected more than 130,000 completed responses. The survey was offered in English, Hmong, Spanish and Somali.

“We deeply appreciate and value the overwhelming response we received from our families,” said Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker in a news release. “Our educators worked tirelessly this spring to create distance learning plans in just eight days, rethinking the way they educate and connect with our students in order to keep them healthy and safe. As we plan for the upcoming school year, we will listen to the experiences of our families, teachers and students and the advice of public health experts to determine a safe path forward.”

The survey showed of the 64% who said they’d be comfortable sending their students back to school in the fall, 94% would support sending their students back to school full time.

Less than 12% of respondents said they would not feel comfortable sending their students back to school. However, of the respondents who answered they would not feel comfortable sending their students back to school, over 83% percent cited concerns about public health a reason why they would not feel comfortable.

The survey also asked respondents about what went well during distance learning and what was challenging.

The most common selections for what went well during distance learning include, “access to the internet,” “access to technology” and “good communication from teacher(s).” The most common selections for what was challenging during distance learning include, “student(s) didn’t feel empowered to work on their own,” “student(s) experiencing new mental health challenges due to COVID-pandemic,” and “hard to understand lessons.”

The Department of Education has previously stated that they will make an announcement for the 2020-21 school year no later than the week of July 27.