Teachers rally at Minnesota governor’s residence, call for caution before returning to in-person teaching

(FOX 9)

Twin Cities teachers again expressed worries about a return to the classroom this fall as concerns over the coronavirus continue.

A rally Friday took teachers to the governor's residence where teachers from Saint Paul and Minneapolis school districts were speaking plainly.

"Our students' lives are too important to sacrifice so that the economy can reopen," said Greta Callahan.

For now, they say learning this fall needs to be done from a distance.

"I can’t teach from the grave," added Lindsey West. "I can’t, it’s as simple as that."

Fifth-grade Minneapolis teacher Lindsey West wanted a message that would not be lost in the crowd.

"Online learning is really our only option," said West. "I’ve thought about it in 100 different ways, trying to do a hybrid what it would look like trying to go back into the classroom but I have 30 students. There’s no way I can social distance from them."

She was one of many teachers, support staff, and parents marching and caravaning to the governor’s residence in St. Paul. They want to make sure Governor Walz knows where they stand a week before his announcement on fall learning.

"A lot of the politicians that are making these decisions right now are making it on Zoom calls," said St. Paul Federation of Educators President Nick Faber. "If it’s not safe for them to be together why is it safe for us to be back in the classrooms together as well?"

Leaders of the St. Paul and Minneapolis teacher unions are calling on a decline in COVID cases for 14 straight days in the state before in-person school is even considered. They are also calling for more funding for extra staff that will be needed.

"Our custodians in our buildings tell us they don’t have enough staff to clean the buildings as it is we’re short-staffed," explained Minneapolis Federation of Teachers ESP President Shaun Laden. "So now you add additional protocols around disinfecting high-touch areas and you just need more folks."

The teachers have also started an online petition asking that certain public health and safety conditions be met before any in-person learning begins. The goal is to gather at least 10,000 signatures before they deliver it digitally to the governor this weekend.

Teachers say they just need state leaders to listen.

"I just hope he hears what we have to say today and really makes it a good choice on behalf of everyone," West said.