With COVID-19 surging, Minnesota school leaders must do more to protect communities

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ST. PAUL, Minnesota. Nov. 16, 2021 – Everyone in Minnesota’s school communities must do their part to keep each other safe, said Education Minnesota President Denise Specht on Tuesday when announcing the union’s support for urgent new warnings about COVID-19 in schools from the state departments of health and education. 

“Parents, administrators, school boards and educators are all trying to keep Minnesota’s students engaged and learning in their school buildings, but that gets harder every week this pandemic keeps burning through schools,” Specht said. “Minnesotans must come together and do everything we can to bring the latest surge under control and keep each other safe. It’s good to see the state government shares our sense of urgency. Educators encourage parents and school leaders to follow the state’s guidance.” 

The Minnesota Department of Education announced Tuesday that it had mailed letters to every Minnesota family with a school-aged child, reminding of them of the layers of best practices for preventing the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 in schools. In the letter, the department repeated its commitment to the health and wellness of students, staff and families and its priority of “ensuring students can stay in the classrooms for safe, in-person learning.” 

In a separate communication to superintendents and school board members, the state health department warned, “we have seen an alarming rise in childhood cases and a subsequent rise in hospitalized children admitted into intensive care, and sadly, one student has died. Additionally, eight Minnesota school staff have become infected and died of COVID since school began this fall.” 

The health department message, which was co-signed by the state president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, asked school leaders to implement the full range of preventative measures recommended by state and federal scientists, including vaccinations, masking, social distancing, ventilation, quarantines and staying home when sick. The department wrote the layered approach was the best way to have in-person school with the fewest interruptions.  

“The course of the pandemic over the next few months may be set by Minnesota school boards and superintendents,” Specht said. “Educators will have their backs when they’re ready to step up and make the tough calls to control this virus. We all want our school buildings to be safe places to work and learn, and we want them to stay open as much as possible this winter. We’ll need to work together.” 

About Education Minnesota
Education Minnesota is the voice for professional educators and students. Education Minnesota’s members include teachers and education support professionals in Minnesota’s public school districts, faculty members at Minnesota’s community and technical colleges and University of Minnesota campuses in Duluth and Crookston, retired educators and student teachers. Education Minnesota is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and AFL-CIO.

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