The Safest Return

Superintendent Graff and the Minneapolis Board of Education

We all want the same things. We want to keep our loved ones safe. We want stability in our day-to-day lives that we can count on. We want science-based policies to get this virus under control. We want to improve students’ learning opportunities. We want to safely reopen school buildings as soon as possible.

But we do not agree to putting our lives at risk without the option of the same choice we are providing families, opportunity to get vaccinated, and written agreements in place between MPS and MFT.

We are ready, willing and able to engage in honest, transparent, and collaborative efforts to come to the safest possible plan for the return to in-person learning. In addition to good faith bargaining with unionized school staff, there must also be an authentic process involving students, parents, caregivers, and families to develop and implement any plan for returning to school buildings.

We believe it is critical that we get bargaining agreements to:

  1. Voluntary return - We have staff members in high risk categories, we have staff caring for and living with elderly family members, we have staff who do not feel safe going back right now. Just as we trust families to choose based on their level of comfort and safety, educators should get to choose as well.

  2. Give staff the option to get vaccinated - All staff should have the opportunity to get the two doses of the vaccine before returning to in-person learning. We should not rush to any in-person learning before staff has this option.

  3. Make our schools safe – Implement strenuous, high quality safety measures in school buildings before beginning any version of in-person student learning, including:

    1. Class size caps.

    2. Mandatory weekly saliva COVID-19 testing plan for all staff.

    3. 6-feet social distancing for all students and staff.

    4. A contact tracing plan which includes transparent reporting of cases, protects privacy rights, and helps stop COVID spread.

    5. A plan for closing classrooms and schools when outbreaks of the COVID-19 virus occur.

    6. A plan for when protocol and safety measures are not being followed.

    7. Additional PPE for staff who are unable to maintain social distancing with students due to the nature of their work and the students with whom they serve.

    8. Additional staffing to implement the cleaning and sanitization of the school environment.

  4. Provide emotional safety – Our students have been through so much this year. We must provide them with as much support as possible when returning to in-person learning. Hire more educators to ensure mental and physical safety. Meet students’ needs by hiring additional nurses, social workers and other clinicians, counselors, social workers, education support professionals, case managers, and Special Education and bilingual educators. Provide additional resources to educators and schools serving a majority of students of color.

We call on Superintendent Ed Graff and Minneapolis Public Schools to delay the reopening of schools until we have agreements in place for the aforementioned.

Students and educators need to be back in school buildings in a thoughtful, safe, and organized manner. Having these agreements in place will also ensure the consistency and stability our students, families and educators desperately want and need when it comes to staffing. If community spread is high and the new, more contagious strain of the virus continues to emerge, there won’t be enough adults to staff our school buildings because they are sick or quarantining, and there aren’t nearly enough substitutes to fill those vacancies.

We are always going above and beyond as educators, now is the time for MPS to go above and beyond in providing safe and stable schools during a pandemic.

To: Superintendent Graff and the Minneapolis Board of Education
From: [Your Name]

We are calling on you to come to agreements with the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and Education Support Professionals, provide educators the ability to choose the option that is safest for them, and delay a return to in-person learning until educators have the option to get vaccinated.