CDC says teachers can safely return to class without vaccinations but teachers remain concerned

As more and more students head back to class, some Minnesota teachers are anxious about being back in the building.

Wednesday, Minneapolis teachers gathered to say their concerns are not being heard.

"We need moral, ethical, and health first in all of this and we’re seeing our district leaders putting egos above children right now," said Greta Callahan with the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers. "There’s no reason why we can’t take a step back and do this safely."

But Minneapolis schools say they are doing it safely. FOX 9 took a "safety tour" at Pillsbury Elementary on Wednesday where masks are required, there’s one-way foot traffic, air purifiers, class sizes 20 students or less, and social distancing everywhere.

But educators say why not wait for teachers to get vaccinated. However, the CDC announced on Wednesday that's not really necessary to get things safely rolling again.

"There is increasing data that says schools can safely reopen and that safe reopening does not suggest that teachers need to be vaccinated in order to reopen safely," said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky.

Governor Walz responded to that statement saying vaccinations are not a prerequisite to getting kids back in the classroom.

"There are going to be teachers back in classrooms that are not vaccinated," said Governor Walz. "That the CDC requirements and the safety guidance that we have put in place will be able to allow them to do that."

At least one district in Minnesota is opting to put all students, kindergarten through 12th grade, back in class by mid-February with a COVID safety plan in place. St. Francis Schools cites reasons like students who are struggling academically and declining engagement. They sent a statement that says in part:

"We care deeply about the safety and individual needs of our staff and students. Additionally, we are concerned about our student’s mental health. This is not an easy decision.  Our board has mixed opinions on this topic, as all school boards do across the state."

Students still have the option to continue distance learning. It's unclear if the CDC statement will change any guidelines put out by the state. They have been following CDC recommendations throughout the pandemic.