Teachers' unions voice concerns over Walz's in-person learning target date

Teachers' unions in the Twin Cities metro are voicing concerns over Gov. Tim Walz's new directive for all Minnesota schools to offer a form of in-person learning by March 8.

While some school districts have already brought middle and high school students back to the classroom, two of the state’s largest school districts, Minneapolis and Saint Paul, have not.

The Minneapolis Federation of Teachers Union (MFT 59) said Minneapolis Public Schools is not ready and returning to in-person learning could be dangerous.  
"We’ve had first and second graders back in school for three days and already, two of our classrooms in the district in two different schools are quarantining from COVID-19 exposures," said Greta Callahan, president of MFT 59.  
As districts across the state return to in-person learning, Callahan told FOX 9 that it’s not that simple for Minneapolis Public Schools.  
"We are not all other districts. We serve a majority of students of color; we have different positivity rates in different communities that we are serving right now. We are not like all the suburbs or anywhere else in Minnesota," she added.  
Education Minnesota, a teachers' union representing at least 86,000 Pre-K through higher-ed educators said the union also wants students back in the classroom, but they want to transition in schools safely.  
"My hope is that what we’re doing and what we’re seeing is learning plans that have enough mitigation and protocols in place that will keep them safe," said Denise Specht, president of Education Minnesota   
Specht said only a few school districts in Minnesota don’t have reopening plans and in those cases the districts face special needs.
"Some of them may have the oldest buildings in our state or they serve unique populations, and some may have challenges around staffing issues," said Specht. "I think they can get on a path, but it is going to require resources to help them overcome these challenges."

The superintendent of St. Paul Public Schools says the district plans on moving forward with their plan to slowly start bringing back older students, starting Monday.

In response to the governor's announcement, Minneapolis Public Schools laid out their plan for the next few weeks, but did not include a specific date for the return of middle and high school students.

Walz said districts will not face penalties if they don’t meet the target date of March 8.