Minneapolis teachers, union express COVID and staffing concerns

Minneapolis teachers are becoming increasingly concerned over the rise of COVID-19 cases throughout their district.

Tiffany Doherty is an 8th-grade math teacher in Minneapolis and a single mom to a son who tested positive for COVID-19 Monday night.

"He was devastated. He was so sad because he wants to be in school," Doherty told FOX 9’s Rob Olson. 

Staying home with him, she’s among the increasing numbers of teachers and staff who are out of school currently. 

"The unfortunate thing is I’m home, but I could be working if there was a virtual option… I could be teaching my students right now," said Doherty.

Doherty wound up joining two union presidents for Minneapolis teachers and staff on Tuesday in a virtual news conference calling for action.

"My building, we had significant staff outages yesterday and today, it’s almost triple today," said Doherty.

Monday Minneapolis Schools Superintendent Ed Graff said staff levels are a major stressor and challenge, but they’re not interested in going to distance learning, stating that kids do better in-person.

"When a student has to isolate and quarantine due to COVID, there is no plan across the district for them," said Greta Callahan, president of Minneapolis Federation of Teachers 59.
What union heads say is there should be options – a way that teachers in quarantine can still teach, a way that students at home can still learn the way they did last year, and the flexibility to switch when needed.

"Give those who want online options at the site level, give it to them... which in turn creates smaller class sizes, which in turn creates social distancing, which in turn creates less spread, which in turn creates more staff onsite, not out," said Callahan.

For the union, a push to have flexible plans is a major point of contract talks which are now in mediation, and they’re very frustrated.

"If you don’t have a plan, then you’re always chasing your tail," said Doherty. "And that’s what we’re seeing now."