Minneapolis teachers call for new plan to deal with COVID-19 cases

On Tuesday, the union representing teachers and staff in Minneapolis Public Schools will call for better plans to deal with the rising surge of COVID-19 cases that has left kids at home and teachers stretched thin.

The Minneapolis Federation of Teachers wants "a plan for teaching students in quarantine, a plan for safer in-person learning, a plan for increased staff absences, a plan to fill hundreds of open jobs" said Greta Callahan, president of the MFT.

Monday, the Minneapolis School District confirmed that 285 teachers were absent on the first day back from break.  Their system does not track COVID-19 as a specific absence reason, but they were noted as a mix of personal illness, family illness, and personal leave.

But, said Superintendent Ed Graff, those numbers are within the norm of what they’ve dealt with recently.

"Just know that’s a challenge for us but the daily range for absences in our district range anywhere from 200 to 300 staff, or teachers, and we have about 3,500 teachers in our district," said Graff in a virtual news conference Monday afternoon.

While they’ve been filling the gaps with substitutes, other teachers, and licensed district staffers, it’s been difficult.

"It’s definitely a strain and stressor on the system," said Graff.  "I think that can be stated with confidence."

But he pushed back on calls from some teachers and parents to look at a return to distance learning amidst rising case numbers.  He said there are many parents who appreciate their kids are learning in person after the struggles of staying home last year.

"And ultimately we’re balancing the needs to keep our students safe while also ensuring that they’re learning."