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CDC: Black, Latino Parents More Concerned About School Reopenings Than Whites

Minority families, hit disproportionately hard by the pandemic, have greater concern about compliance with prevention measures, safety and their child bringing home COVID-19.

LACK AND LATINO parents are more concerned than white parents about schools reopening for in-person learning in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concludes.

The report, issued Thursday, details the racial and ethnic differences in parents' attitudes and concerns about school reopenings, with the notable top-line finding that Black and Latino parents are troubled to a greater degree about various aspects of schools reopening – such as compliance with prevention measures, safety and their child contracting or bringing home COVID-19 – than white parents.

"Families' concerns also highlight the need for flexible education plans and equitable resource provision so that youth education is not compromised," concluded investigators, who analyzed data from three large-scale surveys conducted over the summer.

One analysis of 858 parents with children in kindergarten through grade 12 showed that, overall, 57% of parents strongly or somewhat agreed that school should reopen this fall, but responses varied significantly by race: While 62% of white parents agreed that schools should reopen in the fall, only 46% of Black and 50% of Hispanic parents did. Parents of other racial and ethnic minority groups, including parents who identified as American Indian, Alaska Native, Asian and multiracial, were more concerned about students adhering to social distancing and mask-wearing than white parents and Hispanic parents.

The report also found fewer white parents were supportive of a mask mandate for students and staff members than any other racial and ethnic minority.

"The current school year is well underway; however, these findings remain relevant as the pandemic evolves and families and school districts continue to weigh the risks and benefits of in-person versus virtual instruction," investigators concluded. "School districts should be cognizant of medical risks for severe COVID-19 and resource limitations among families while also considering their own resources to successfully implement mitigation strategies and provide flexibility in their approach to schooling."

The results come as no surprise to educators and parent groups, who have been consistently messaging these sentiments during the sprawling and controversial national debate over reopening schools for in-person learning, driven in large part by the Trump administration's insistence that all schools, regardless of rising infection rates, should be open for in-person learning. The CDC's findings also mirror the top-line findings of other surveys conducted in recent months by teachers unions and parent groups, including the National Parents Union.

Notably, Black families, Latino families and other racial and ethnic minority groups have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, experiencing higher rates of infection, hospitalization and death, as well as economic and housing disruption.

While all parents would like schools to be in a position to reopen for in-person learning safely, low-income families, including those in racial and ethnic minority groups, have more of an urgency to see their schools do so, as many lack internet access, computers and job flexibility to support remote learning. Already, these student subgroups are facing academic, social and emotional learning loss at a faster clip than white students.

Yet it's these parents who are also more committed to keeping their children at home until they're confident in the safety measures schools can effectively put in place.

"The fear of poor health outcomes from COVID-19 might outweigh these obstacles as families make choices about in-person or virtual learning," investigators underscored.

"Although most parents had concerns about both school reopening for in-person instruction and virtual learning, the perceived risk for COVID-19 and poor health outcomes might account for the differences in parental attitudes and concerns by race and ethnicity," the investigators concluded. "Understanding parental attitudes and concerns is critical to informing public communication and messaging to slow the spread of COVID-19."


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