This story was written and produced by NJ Spotlight. It is being republished under a special NJ News Commons content-sharing agreement related to COVID-19 coverage. To read more, visit njspotlight.com.

New Jersey’s seismic shift last spring to remote instruction due to the COVID-19 pandemic appears to have received mixed grades from the families who lived it.

The state last week finally released a much-discussed survey of nearly 300,000 families conducted in early June about the state’s first lockdown and closing of schools. The results show parents fairly evenly split on how well online instruction worked at the start of pandemic — and also on the myriad issues going forward for the state’s 1.4 million public school children.

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In response to nearly a dozen questions, about half of the participating families said that, by and large, the shift to remote instruction succeeded. An equal number disagreed, saying it didn’t. The same split was true when digging deeper into academic versus more social and emotional learning.

About half also said, when the survey was circulated in June, that they would be willing to return to in-person schools in the fall. Yet respondents were sharply divided about the safety of school buildings — specifically, the value of face masks, a key tenet of Murphy’s back-to-school edict as it stands now.

The survey was developed by the state Department of Education and distributed through individual districts in the first week of June. It is hardly a scientific sample by polling standards, but given the number of those surveyed, it provides a sizable — if a little dated — snapshot of public sentiment.

Among the key findings:

Did you see positive effect in remote instruction in the spring?

  • 14% very confident
  • 41% moderately
  • 45% not confident

Did your family have access to supplemental support, such as health and nutrition?

  • 63% very confident
  • 26% moderately confident
  • 11% not confident

Did your household have adequate access to the internet for online instruction?

  • 82% very confident
  • 14% moderately confident
  • 4% not confident

Would you send your child back to in-person instruction in September?

  • 54% yes
  • 11% no
  • 35% undecided

Are schools prepared to maintain health and safety standards?

  • 29% very confident
  • 39% moderately confident
  • 36% not confident

Will required face masks make you feel safer?

  • 29% very confident
  • 34% moderately confident
  • 37% not confident

To read the story in the original format, click Remote Learning Gets Mixed Marks in State Survey of Families