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STATESMAN POWER POLL: Members support delaying in-person classes, sports

Austin, TX  |  August 5, 2020 9:00am  |  By Maribel Molina

The decision to delay in-person classes found strong support in the latest Statesman Power Poll. Participating members also overwhelmingly agreed with delaying or suspending college sports in the fall. They also strongly supported businesses reducing office spaces in lieu of remote work.

The Statesman Power Poll surveys nearly 900 influential members of the Central Texas community every month. More than 200 Power Poll members completed the three-question July survey.

The first question we asked members was: “If a job can be done remotely, should businesses consider reducing physical office spaces?”

The vast majority of survey takers, 77.99%, answered “yes.” Only 6.7% of voters chose “no” while 15.31% chose “unsure.”

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“Regarding offices, I believe that we have seen through the pandemic that there is a lot to be said for telecommuting,” Rowena Houghton Dasch, executive director of the Neill-Cochran House Museum, wrote in a survey comment. “I think that we should rethink the expectation that a worker be physically in the office 9-5, 5 days a week.”

The Austin office market continues to experience a downturn as the coronavirus pandemic lingers. In May, local office brokers said the market was showing signs of a slowdown, with more tenants subletting space, utilizing short-term options and delaying long-term agreements. A new report shows office leasing has taken a hit but that occupancy rates remain healthy.

Reopening schools

Our second question addressed the reopening of classrooms around the state: “School districts in some Texas cities are opting to delay the start of in-person classes for the fall semester. Do you agree with the decision to delay in-person classes in the fall?”

The majority of respondents, 51.2%, answered “strongly agree” and another 21.05% responded “agree.” About a fifth of voters disagreed, with 11.48% choosing “disagree” and 9.09% choosing “strongly disagree.” Just 7.18% of voters answered “unsure.”

Despite false claims to the contrary, children can get and spread the coronavirus. Locally, multiple school districts in Central Texas have made the decision to delay in-person instruction for several weeks in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has stated local health authorities can’t close schools, and decisions to do so should be made by school leaders.

Dock Jackson, a Bastrop City Council member, wrote in a Power Poll comment: “With the current spikes in Covid-19 in Texas I think more testing, social distancing, contact tracing and facial covering usage are necessary. Until we get a better handle on these conditions it is not safe to send children back into the classrooms.”

College sports

The final question of the poll concerned college sports: “Multiple college athletic conferences have chosen to delay or suspend sports for the fall semester due to the coronavirus pandemic. Do you agree with decisions to delay or suspend college sports in the fall?”

Like the previous question, the majority of voters, 52.63%, said they “strongly agree.” Almost a quarter of voters, 24.88%, said they “agree.” The members who selected “disagree” made up 7.18% of the vote, and another 6.22% said they “strongly disagree.” Lastly, 9.09% answered “unsure.”

This month, the Ivy League canceled sports for the fall semester. The Pac-12 and Big Ten both have eliminated non-conference games in the fall, a move that Southwestern University in Georgetown is also taking. On Aug. 3, the Big 12 conference announced football teams would play a 10-game season. The University of Texas is now considering a 25% stadium capacity limit for football games. On Twitter, Austin Public Health director Dr. Mark Escott shared his concerns with having spectators at games and suggested fans watch from home for the upcoming season.

“From everything we know about the virus spread, athletics almost has to be a near certainty of spreading contagion,” Terry Cole, founder of Street Youth Ministry of Austin, wrote in a poll comment. “I think in an area with the virus spread is out of control, safe sports are almost out of the question--there are no doubt exceptions but not the popular options that quickly come to mind.”

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