MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Gov. Tim Walz is expected to announce his decision on fall school in less than two weeks, and some school workers are concerned about the unknown status of their jobs.

Obviously the governor’s decision on school will affect students, teachers, and parents. But there are more than just students and educators that work in and for schools, and they’re concerned they’re being forgotten in this decision.

Employees like bus drivers, maintenance workers, and special education paraprofessionals spoke out Thursday morning about their concerns.

One of them is that they have never been eligible for unemployment during the summer months. They say there is a state law that prevents hourly school workers from getting summer unemployment because typically they have good assurance they will have work again in the fall.

That is something they have been fighting for years, but this year with COVID-19, many hourly school employees are also out of work as summer programs were cancelled.

Teresa Jakubowski usually spends the summer driving school buses, but not this year.

“This year summer school was cancelled because of COVID. One-hundred-fifty-plus drivers and chaperones are without an income necessary for survival,” Jakubowski said.

She is one of roughly thousands of hourly workers trying to collect unemployment, a local labor union claims. Jakubowski still filed for unemployment this year.

“Five weeks later, in pending, no denial, no approval, no money received. I’m quite certain it will be denial and we’re told we can appeal in October or November,” she said.

These workers are also upset that they still don’t know the status of fall school. It’s a matter of weeks away and they want to know if they’ll have jobs.

“The Mall of America is open but yet we still do not understand how we’re going to educate our students,” education support professional Siera Washington said.

Others worry if they’re going to be given the proper resources to fight COVID-19.

“We are in limbo not only to know whether or not they will be returning to school or whether or not we can do this safety, and we’re in limbo for no paychecks. These folks need unemployment and they need it now,” SEIU Local 284 executive director Kelly Gibbons said.

Workers say they say they will be pushing state lawmakers to change the law so that they can be treated like landscapers or tax employees that are eligible for unemployment during their off-season.

WCCO reached out to both to Walz’s office and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development and we’re waiting to hear back. We do expect a decision on Fall schools by July 27.

Kate Raddatz

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