NEWARK, NJ – With thousands of students across Newark returning to their desks for fully in-person learning for the first time in 18 months, a majority of city parents expressed mostly support for mandatory masks and vaccinations in schools, according to a recent poll commissioned by Newark-based nonprofit Project Ready.
A shared fear of COVID-19 was also prevalent among parents heading into the new school year, reporting 87% of parents were “worried” that their child would contract the virus, including 62% who are “very worried,” according to the Project Ready poll.
“These numbers reflect the widespread concern among Newark parents who want their kids going to school in an environment that is safe,” said Shennell McCloud, CEO of Project Ready. “It is urgent that our leaders listen to the community and take the necessary actions to keep our schools safe.”
In past polls, Project Ready, a local social justice advocacy group, has surveyed Newark residents on an array of pressing matters in the community such as the city’s Guaranteed Income Pilot Program, COVID-19 vaccines, and voting in local elections.
Although a majority of parents also said they intended to send their child to school if only in-person learning is available, there was a bit of reluctance among some parents to do so. The poll showed 10% of parents said they “would not” and 18% “were not sure.”
Newark schools were required to transition back to full-time, in-person learning this year after Gov. Phil Murphy in May announced that a virtual learning option would be off-the-table for the 2021-22 school year. The move by Murphy at the time of his announcement was supported by Newark Public Schools District officials.
In the event of an outbreak or emergency, districts are allowed to switch to remote learning, according to the governor’s office.
Public health measures in schools also garnered support from a majority of parents, including mandatory masks for all students and mandatory vaccines for teachers and eligible students.
An overwhelming amount of parents (86%) supported a mask mandate for students in schools. A majority of parents (68%) also supported a vaccine mandate for teachers.
After youths age 12-17 became eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine in spring, 54% of parents said they support a vaccine mandate for eligible students.
Vaccinations for both staff and students have been “strongly encouraged” by district officials. Last week, Newark Public Schools expanded vaccination sites to all city schools to ramp up inoculations for staff, students and community members.
“The expansion of schools to vaccination sites is the next logical step,” Newark Public Schools District Spokesperson Nancy Deering told TAPinto Newark.
The district is still in the process of gathering proof of vaccinations for students, Deering told TAPinto Newark. To date, district officials know that at least 45% of Newark children ages 12-17 have been vaccinated, she said.
The poll surveyed 301 parents of school-aged children in Newark from Aug. 27 to Sept. 7, 2021. The poll has a margin of error of 5.66%, according to Project Ready. Post-stratification weighting was performed on gender, race/ethnicity, education, and zip code. Weighting parameters were based on census data.