Minneapolis teachers union continues push for online classes as COVID cases rise

The extreme wind chill forecast for Monday morning became the perfect storm, when combined with the COVID-fueled bus driver shortage for Minneapolis Public Schools. The district announcing online learning for Monday only brought a mixed reaction from the president of the Minneapolis teachers union.

"My initial reaction was thank goodness," Greta Callahan said. "The cold weather tomorrow was either divine intervention or just a really great excuse… We certainly had plenty of cold weather on Friday and should have done this, as well."

Minneapolis Superintendent Ed Graff saying, "We were able to make it work last week. But with the increased limitations on our transportation department as a result of COVID-19 infections reported over the weekend, moving forward we decided that bus transportation (Monday) just poses too great a safety risk to our students." 

Greta Callahan, president of the Minneapolis teachers union

But the union has been pushing hard for online learning options as positive cases keep rising.

"Multiple buildings on Friday had 40 or 50 percent of staff out, and we have multiple classrooms right now that just have a few students showing up and present," Callahan said. "It isn’t working, we can’t keep winging it."

How best to respond is one of many uncertainties about what’s yet to come.

The Minnesota Department of Health posted Sunday that there’s high demand at the few testing sites that were open and encouraged people to test at home, or make an appointment for Monday.

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court expected to rule on the Biden administration vaccine mandate for employers with more than 100 workers; and school districts are among those preparing to implement it, if required.

While, at the same time, dealing with daily stress of short-staffing.

"In another school, the plan on Friday when there weren’t substitute teachers was any student that didn’t have a teacher just went to the lunchroom, Callahan said. "That’s certainly not what’s best for students, either."

St. Paul Public Schools told FOX 9 they are not considering e-learning for Monday. St. Paul students will be in class tomorrow, as well as many other districts in Minnesota. As of Sunday evening, with reminders to be ready for dangerous cold at the bus stop.