BY Denise Specht
With COVID-19 surging, Minnesota school leaders must do more to protect communities
Everyone in Minnesota’s school communities must do their part to keep each other safe.
Parents, administrators, school boards and educators are all trying to keep Minnesota’s students engaged and learning in their school buildings, but that gets harder every week this pandemic keeps burning through schools. Minnesotans must come together and do everything we can to bring the latest surge under control and keep each other safe. It’s good to see the state government shares our sense of urgency. Educators encourage parents and school leaders to follow the state’s guidance.
The Minnesota Department of Education announced Tuesday that it had mailed letters to every Minnesota family with a school-aged child, reminding of them of the layers of best practices for preventing the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 in schools. In the letter, the department repeated its commitment to the health and wellness of students, staff and families and its priority of “ensuring students can stay in the classrooms for safe, in-person learning.
In a separate communication to superintendents and school board members, the state health department warned, “we have seen an alarming rise in childhood cases and a subsequent rise in hospitalized children admitted into intensive care, and sadly, one student has died. Additionally, eight Minnesota school staff have become infected and died of COVID since school began this fall.”
The health department message, which was co-signed by the state president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, asked school leaders to implement the full range of preventative measures recommended by state and federal scientists, including vaccinations, masking, social distancing, ventilation, quarantines and staying home when sick. The department wrote the layered approach was the best way to have in-person school with the fewest interruptions.
The course of the pandemic over the next few months may be set by Minnesota school boards and superintendents. Educators will have their backs when they’re ready to step up and make the tough calls to control this virus. We all want our school buildings to be safe places to work and learn, and we want them to stay open as much as possible this winter. We’ll need to work together.”
Denise Specht is President of Education Minnesota, an American trade union representing pre-K to 12 education teachers, school support staff and higher education faculty in Minnesota. It is affiliated with both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, and is affiliated with the AFL-CIO.