First-graders are seen on their second day of school on Thursday, August 12, 2021, at Second Creek Elementary School in Commerce City. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun)

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Colorado parents are deeply divided on mask and vaccine requirements in schools, with Democrats far more likely to support mandates and Republicans largely opposed.

Parents as a whole were almost evenly split, with 50% saying masks should not be required and 48% saying they should, within the survey’s margin of error.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has not issued a statewide school mask mandate, instead leaving decisions to school districts and local boards of health, and there has been passionate debate at public meetings on masking and other COVID protocols.

The findings come from a new poll Magellan Strategies conducted Aug. 9 to 16, as students in many Colorado districts headed back to school. Magellan, a Republican-leaning firm based in Louisville, Colorado, asked 516 parents of children in kindergarten through 12th grade how their child’s school handled education during the pandemic, whether they thought public schools in their area were generally on the right or wrong track, and what they thought about mask and vaccine requirements.

“It’s not very often you see that stark a split,” said Ryan Winger, director of data analysis and campaign strategy for Magellan Strategies. “That explains a lot of the heightened interest and passion out there. It’s a situation where the districts, no matter what they do, they can’t make everyone happy. It speaks to how difficult it’s been for districts to navigate at the local level.”

The poll also included questions about school funding and how race is taught in schools.

Magellan used voter registration records to contact parents, so those who are not registered voters are not represented among the respondents. The poll has a 4.3% margin of error with a 95% confidence interval.

Among Democrats, 83% believe students should wear masks in school, while just 17% of Republicans agree. Among the unaffiliated voters who make up a growing share of Colorado’s electorate, 43% support mask requirements. Support for masks was higher in Denver and surrounding suburbs and lower in small towns and rural parts of the state.

On vaccine requirements, 52% of respondents said teachers and staff should be required to be vaccinated, while 45% opposed vaccine mandates. Meanwhile, 47% said high school students should be required to get the COVID vaccine to attend school.

Again, Democrats were far more likely to support vaccine mandates — with more than 80% saying staff should get vaccinated, compared with less than a third for Republicans. So far, Colorado school districts have been slow to adopt vaccine mandates, though the announcement Monday that the FDA had granted full approval to the Pfizer vaccine could lead some to reconsider.


Erica Meltzer is Bureau Chief of Chalkbeat Colorado, where she also covers the legislature and statewide education issues. Erica was a founding editor of the local news site Denverite. Before that, she covered everything from housing and energy...