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Poll: Many parents and teachers fear return to classroom this fall

A majority of parents with grade-school students would rather stick with home-learning options.

TAMPA, Fla. — Schools are planning to reopen in the fall, but a new poll finds a shocking number of parents are still not comfortable with the idea of sending their kids back to the classroom.

And, a huge number of teachers say they’re not okay with going back either.

Just because schools will be open, doesn’t mean students and teachers will be there when the bell rings. A pair of new polls from USA Today surveyed hundreds of parents and teachers.

The publication found 60 percent of parents with grade-school students would stick with home learning options rather than sending their children back to the classroom this fall.

One in five teachers, according to the poll, say they are also unlikely to go back to school. If that happened, it could create a massive teacher shortfall.

“It could create a problem,” said education expert David Dillard, who operates KD College Prep, and is hearing the concerns both from students and instructors. “I mean, you have to understand everybody is in shock.”

Dillard thinks teachers who have COVID19 concerns might adjust their careers to specialize in e-learning rather than outright quit.

The poll, he says, shows schools, just like restaurants and retail, can reopen - but that doesn’t mean people are ready to show up.

“It boils down to their individual personal health concerns and concerns for the people they have around them,” he said.

Hillsborough schools, the region’s largest district, says along with full-time in class instruction, it’s preparing for other possible scenarios - reassigning teachers to e-learning, a hybrid curriculum with some classroom and some at-home instruction, as well as providing resources for parents who don’t feel safe sending their kids back to class - at all.

“As it relates to individuals, if they aspire that this may not be the best environment for them due to the pandemic, we’re going to support them either way,” Hillsborough Schools Superintendent Addison Davis said earlier this month. “And we want them to be at peace with their decision. As it relates to us, my job is to educate children.”

Experts say opinions may change depending upon what the virus is doing as school starts in the fall – whether it’s tapered off or spiking.

But educators are also concerned about a widening learning gap the longer kids are kept out of the classroom. E-learning is okay, they say, but not as effective as that traditional face to face instruction.

The same poll asked parents and teachers whether they think distance-learning is causing students to fall behind - 46 percent of parents - and 76 percent of teachers said yes.

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