Parents worry about effect of COVID disruptions on kids' education: 'How is this sustainable for our kids?'

Monday, all schools in the Minneapolis Public Schools district shifted to distance learning for the day, in part because of the bitterly cold weather, but also because of a rising number of COVID-19 infections.

Rachel Brougham’s son, Thomas, is a seventh grader at Sullivan Steam Magnet school, a K-8 school in Minneapolis.

"He’s been in distance-learning for the most part since he was in fifth grade ,and we’re in seventh grade now," Brougham said. 

Lately, with the new omicron COVID-19 variant, Brougham said her son’s education has suffered even more.

"He’s been home three weeks, went back to school for two days and is back home," she said. 

Last week after returning from winter break, he got to school on Tuesday morning and was in for a surprise.

"He was there [for] about 10 minutes when he texted me that there was nobody else there," Brougham said. "I said well, what’s going on, and he said well, everyone is in quarantine."

Brougham figured she might have missed a message from the district. "Som I called the office, and I was told that it was all kind of transpiring as of that morning and that seventh and eighth grade we’re going into quarantine," Brougham said.

Later, a letter from the school informed her that her son may have been exposed to COVID-19 and would have to quarantine from Jan. 5-18. He’s now at home, without any symptoms on Monday, but Rachel would love for her son to be at school in person.

Still, she worries. "There’s so many kids out, there’s so many teachers out, bus drivers are out," Brougham said.

She’s also concerned about the quality of Thomas’ education over the last two years. 

"How is this sustainable for our kids?" Brougham said. 

And about his safety during a pandemic, "There’s a good chance that he’s going to get it if he goes back to school," Brougham said.

She wonders if kids are getting the best education they can in person, now that a great deal of their teachers are sidelined.

"It’s come to the point where you have to ask yourself the question like is it sustainable having our kids in school again?" Brougham said.

Similar situations are playing out at school districts in the suburbs too. Minnetonka shifted to distance learning last Friday because of COVID-19, but they were back in person on Monday. And in Osseo, with as much as a quarter of their staff out at times, the district is moving to online learning starting Tuesday for middle and high schools and Wednesday for elementary schools through Jan. 24.