Teachers union ‘concerned and disappointed’ by plans to reopen St. Paul elementary schools

The St. Paul Federation of Educators is pushing back on a plan to reopen the city’s public elementary schools in February.
Union leaders said Friday they’re “very concerned and disappointed” by the district’s plan and new guidance from Gov. Tim Walz.
St. Paul Superintendent Joe Gothard said Thursday that elementary schools would reopen Feb. 1, in accordance with state guidance that asserts young children can safely learn in-person even when coronavirus cases in the community remain high.
Union leaders pointed to the disparate impact the virus has had on people of color, who make up nearly 80 percent of students in the district.
“We must be very careful to make sure schools aren’t where children, even young children, catch the virus and bring it home to their parents and grandparents,” they said in a statement.
Health experts, however, say the risks of young children spreading the virus at school or falling seriously ill are relatively low, especially if they wear face masks, as the state requires.
Minnesota Department of Health data show no school-age children have died from COVID-19, and just 16 children ages 5-9 have been admitted to intensive care since the pandemic began — the fewest of any age group.
RELATED: Walz: K-5 schools, gyms can open. Bars, restaurants still can’t do indoor service
The union and school district recently agreed to a long list of working conditions and health and safety precautions in anticipation of moving to a hybrid schedule, with students in classrooms twice a week.
That deal does not apply to St. Paul’s new plan, which calls for full-time in-person learning.
“We expect the district to meet with us and other bargaining groups before Jan. 19 to ensure the proper safety measures are in place to protect students and educators,” the union said.
A school district spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The St. Paul district has been in distance learning since early March, except for the brief return of a small number of special-education students.Related Articles

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