ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO/AP) – There is no end in sight as the St. Paul educators strike goes on. Classes were canceled for St. Paul Public Schools on Tuesday as teachers went on strike after last-minute efforts to reach a contract agreement failed.
District officials announced early Tuesday evening that classes will also be canceled Wednesday.READ MORE: COVID In Minnesota: UK Variant Outbreak Linked To Youth Sports In Carver County, Officials Recommend 2-Week Pause
Union members hoisted strike signs and picketed outside the city’s public schools. The walkout — the district’s first strike since 1946 — canceled classes for roughly 37,000 students and forced parents to make alternate plans for their children.
Instead of teaching, educators spent the day picketing. They’ve been asking for more mental health support and foreign language support. According to the district’s website, about a third of its students are English learners and 16 percent have special education needs.
The St. Paul Public Schools superintendent said he is disappointed as they are trying to work with the teachers but have limited funds.
“The goal is to have a settlement,” said Superintendent Joe Gotham. “A settlement would send a message to the St. Paul community that our doors are open for education.”
In the last four days, both sides have spent 45 hours negotiating. The talks continued until about 3 a.m. Tuesday in an effort to avoid a strike.
“I can assure students, families, staff members and our community that the Board of Education, my team and I did absolutely everything we could to avoid a strike by teachers,” Superintendent Joe Gothard said in a statement.
The St. Paul Federation of Educators planned to picket at all 67 public schools across the city, according to union spokeswoman Megan Boldt.READ MORE: More Than 1 Million Wisconsin Residents Have Been Vaccinated
“We wanted to settle this contract and be in school with our students Tuesday morning,” said Nick Faber, president of the Saint Paul Federation of Educators. “Unfortunately, after more than nine months and marathon bargaining over the weekend, district leaders weren’t willing to move on the issues educators and parents know will help students thrive and break down racial barriers in our schools.”
The union’s priorities include hiring more mental health professionals, multilingual staffers, special education teachers and restorative practices specialists.
“I want to make it clear: I believe our students need and deserve additional support. That has never been in question,” Gothard said. “However, we must prioritize our spending because we have limited resources. We need to place new investments where they are needed most. This is what SPPS proposed as a responsible way to increase student support and remain accountable.”
School district officials said creating mental health teams at every school alone would cost around $30 million a year.
As part of St. Paul Public Schools’ strike plan, classes were to be canceled Tuesday and Wednesday, but breakfast and lunch will be served at some community and school locations and 24 public schools will serve meals.
Students from grades six to 12 will be allowed to keep their school-issued iPads and access online academic resources. And starting Thursday, the district will open seven sites for up to 4,000 elementary school-aged children, where they could be supervised. Como Park is one of the sites that will be open to students.
For more details on the city’s plan during the strike, click here.
As for parents, they’ve been told to prepare for a possible strike for months.
“I’m sure people are going to have to scramble because people are going to have to go to work,” said parent Katie Schroeder, “but I think they’ve given us as much warning as they could.”MORE NEWS: Faces Of COVID: Daryl Kruger, 82, Loved His Grandkids And The MN Twins
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)