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Education Minnesota survey finds that teachers prefer distance learning in the fall

More safety measures would make educators feel more comfortable with in-person instruction.

More than 20,000 teachers participated in a survey with Education Minnesota about returning to work for the 2020-21 school year amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the results show that distance learning is the favored option for at least the fall. 

More precisely, 49% of the 20,524 respondents prefer distance learning "until more disease prevention measures are put in place to protect the members of their school communities and the educators' own families. 

The preferred style of learning survey results: 

  • Distance learning: 49%
  • Hybrid classes: 29%
  • In-person instruction: 17%
  • Other: 5%

The survey also found that 46% of educators would like "some level" of in-person instruction, yet disease prevention measures also weigh heavily on their minds. Of those 46%, 66% said the primary reason they want some level of in-person teaching is due to concerns for "at-risk" students, meaning they're willing to put their own health at risk to help kids in need. 

Younger people, including school-age children, are known to be less likely to develop severe symptoms of COVID-19. In Minnesota, there have been more than 6,300 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among people aged 19 or younger. Of those, one patient died: a 9-month-old baby with no underlying health conditions in Clay County, Minnesota. 

But while school-age children appear to be less vulnerable to the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, that's not always the case for school staff and their loved ones. The Education Minnesota survey found that 8,200 of the more than 20,000 survey takers said they were in a high-risk category for COVID-19, while 9,579 others said they are the primary caretaker for someone at high risk. 

Educators who identified themselves as people of color prefer distance learning at an even higher rate, the survey found. 

  • Native American/Indigenous: 74% of survey takers favor distance learning
  • Asian American: 66%
  • Black/African American: 63%
  • Latinx: 61%
  • White: 49%
  • Hawaiin/Pacific Islander: 44%

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some members of racial and ethnic minority groups are at an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19, with the CDC saying "age-adjusted hospitalization rates are highest among non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native and non-Hispanic black persons, followed by Hispanic or Latino persons."

Gov. Tim Walz and the Department of Education are expected to announce back-to-school plans next Thursday, July 30.

Education Minnesota's statement concluding the survey: 

"No matter what we look like or where we come from, Education Minnesota believes most educators and parents want to get back to in-person education, but only if the whole school community can learn, teach and work in safety during this pandemic. Unfortunately, instead of coming together to get schools the equipment and support they need, certain politicians are pushing the risky policy of returning students to school buildings too soon, just as leaders in Texas and Florida re-opened too soon and sickened and killed hundreds of people, with the burden falling heaviest on communities of color. We can do better in Minnesota, but only if we can come together and find the resources and make the policies — based on the latest data and best science — to reopen school buildings when in-person learning is safe and sustainable for everyone, from everywhere, with no exceptions." 

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