Minneapolis School Board moves forward with in-person learning for pre-K through fifth grade

As many of Minnesota's youngest students returned to in-person learning Tuesday, the Minneapolis School Board took a vote on whether to bring students back next month.

"We want to be back with our students, but we want to have access to the vaccine, and we want to have a safety plan in place that’s negotiated, that’s fair," said fifth grader teacher Lindsey West.

The union put on a car rally ahead of a school board meeting Tuesday night as the board looks at a plan to send pre-K through fifth grade back to in-person learning next month. Teachers will be reporting for duty Feb. 1 and the first group of students will arrive on Feb 8.

"I think what people aren’t aware of is that they’re not giving us accommodations due to the governor’s orders, so a lot of us who are elementary educators do have to report back," West said.

During the meeting, district leaders shared safety measures in place - like improved air filtration systems and socially distanced classrooms. There were also questions about vaccines for teachers, as the district’s first round includes 86 doses.

"Within our essential childcare, we identified the first 86 employees that are working in-person to provide in-person childcare to our essential workers," said Karen Devet, Senior Operations Officer for MPS. 

After that group, the priority would be elementary school teachers.

School board members said that while teachers’ health concerns are valid, so are the academic risks.

"I, too, am concerned about some of the health risks our students and staff may encounter returning to school, but I am more, or equally concerned about the academic risks so many of our students have taken to stay healthy," said Kim Ellison, Board of Education Chair for MPS.

In a 7-2 vote, the board approved the in-person learning option.