MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Some Twin Cities teachers are demanding changes to keep everyone safe in school.

Teachers from Minneapolis and St. Paul rallied Wednesday for better internet access for their students, lower staffing ratios, and resuming hazard pay before moving to the hybrid-learning model.

The Minneapolis Public School district says it will continue to work with union leaders. Here is the district’s statement:

The global pandemic has created very challenging circumstances for our students, families and employees. MPS is doing its best to keep students and staff safe, while also ensuring we are doing the best we can to meet academic needs of our students.

While MPS does not see the need for formal bargaining at this time, we are committed to continue and deepen our ongoing collaboration and problem solving around issues related to the COVID 19 pandemic with our union partners. To that end, MPS has multiple regular and ongoing meetings with the MFT and ESP unions in order to ensure they have the latest updates on activities and issues that may impact their members.

    • Monthly meetings with MFT and ESP leadership, the Superintendent and Senior Leadership Team
    • Bi-weekly phone calls with all union leadership, the Superintendent and Senior Leadership
    • Multiple contract administration meetings per month
    • Ongoing topic-specific meetings with unions

Additionally, MPS’s union leaders are members—alongside educators, students and family members—of the District’s 5 Phases to Safe Learning Advisory Committee. MPS will turn to this group for feedback on the models and plans and how to move the dial in a safe and equitable way.

St. Paul Public Schools says it has effective protocols in place. Superintendent Dr. Joe Gothard released this statement early Wednesday evening:

I am disappointed that SPFE leadership is in opposition to the return of our students to the classroom. While our families are demanding SPPS moves to Hybrid learning, our teacher’s union is delaying our ability to do so.

The best place for both students and educators is in the classroom. My team and I have been focused on making that happen safely since March. I fought for a delay in an in-person learning so I could ensure we have stringent health and safety protocols in place. We have also established a comprehensive list of 24 Readiness Targets, 23 of which have been met. We do not need additional funding to begin Hybrid learning, we need our staff to return. Our returning workforce is the only readiness target we have not met to date.

Hundreds of SPPS staff have been safely engaging in in-person work with students for months; in our Essential Kids Care and Discovery Club child care locations. We have demonstrated the effectiveness of our protocols.

Those families who choose not to return for Hybrid learning have the option to select our Virtual Learning School for their students. No student will be forced to go back into the classroom.

We are working to meet the final Readiness Target so that we can begin Stage 1 of Hybrid learning on Oct. 19. We are evaluating our readiness weekly, and will report on our progress again this Friday.

We also have transition days supported by the Minnesota Department of Education Safe Learning Plan. Once we confirm our Stage 1 start date, we will plan with our educators to ensure they receive transition planning time during these transition days.

Let me be clear: Our families, our students and our community, along with SPPS leadership, all want our students and educators back in the classroom as soon as it’s safe. That time has come. Demands to “slow down the process” do not put the needs of our students and families first.

I would ask SPFE leadership to encourage staff to report according to our plan for transition to Hybrid learning. Like hundreds of thousands of schools and districts around the world who are currently in some form of Hybrid learning, SPPS is ready.

READ MORE: ‘You Can Make A Plan But You Can’t Plan Everything’: Teachers Prepare For Socially Distant School Year

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