Walz issues guidance for reopening school buildings, but Education Minnesota cautions there’s still a ‘tremendous amount of work’ to make buildings safe for students and educators 

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ST. PAUL, Minnesota. July 30, 2020 – Gov. Tim Walz announced on Thursday a set of ground rules for conditions outside and inside school buildings that will govern how public education resumes in Minnesota this fall, while giving local officials and educators some leeway over deciding how education would be delivered to their students. 

“Educators want to be back in their classrooms with their students, but only if it can be done safely,” said Denise Specht, president of Education Minnesota. “The governor’s plan uses the latest data and best science to guide districts toward the right choice between distance learning, in-person classes or a hybrid of the two. Physically reopening requires both a low level of community spread and rigorous safety precautions inside a school. At first look, that’s an approach that educators can support.” 

Specht said the governor’s plan also leaves many decisions to local school boards, school administrators and educators. That also means a “tremendous amount of work” needs to get done before school buildings can reopen to large numbers of students. 

“Physically opening school buildings to our students will take a tremendous amount of work from everyone in the school community – school board members, administrators, educators and parents – before we can do it safely,” Specht said. “We cannot be bullied by arbitrary start dates on the calendar or settle for ‘safe enough’ because that’s all an underfunded district can afford. In-person and hybrid learning shouldn’t start until our schools are ready.” 

Specht said she was happy to hear the governor’s comments Thursday afternoon stressing the importance of racial equity in the decision to resume public education in the fall.  

“All the survey data shows communities of color are more anxious about physically returning to the classroom because of how the pandemic has magnified the racial disparities that run through health care, public education and so many other systems in our state. Depending on how you look or where you live, the risks of COVID-19 very are different,” Specht said. “The governor and his team made the right decision to order accommodations for families who aren’t comfortable returning to in-person learning at this stage of the pandemic. Our union will work with districts to protect high-risk educators as well.” 

Specht said the union would continue examining the governor’s plan Thursday evening. She said she expected to have additional comments about the plan on Friday. 

About Education Minnesota 
Education Minnesota is the voice for professional educators and students. Education Minnesota’s members include teachers and education support professionals in Minnesota’s public school districts, faculty members at Minnesota’s community and technical colleges and University of Minnesota campuses in Duluth and Crookston, retired educators and student teachers. Education Minnesota is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and AFL-CIO.