Minneapolis school nurses blast school reopening plans, say returning isn't safe under latest proposal

'Any death that occurs through these rash decisions, is on their hands'
Photo credit Getty Images

Plans to reopen Minneapolis schools are being met with heavy opposition as teachers union members say that district leaders aren't listening to their concerns.

On Wednesday morning, members of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers Local 59 sounded off on Minneapolis Public Schools proposed plans to resume in-person learning in early February.

"What happened to the commitment by staff and parents to only go up one phase at a time?," said Angie McCracken, a school nurse in Minneapolis. "Not following your own guidelines really decreases trust in the district by the community and employees."

The Minneapolis school board officially heard the district's plan to bring students back during a meeting on Tuesday night. Under the proposed plan, preschoolers and kindergartners could return to school buildings on Feb. 8. First and second graders would return Feb. 10 and students in grades three through five on Feb. 22.

The school board will vote on the plan next Tuesday. The plan does give families the option to keep students in distance learning, however if families fail to register by Jan. 22. then the students will be automatically enrolled for in-person learning.

"This is not about lack of support for teachers or other staff," said Superintendent Ed Graff. "We remain committed to engaging and collaborating with all of our unions throughout this time. And the district has worked continuously to engage with our unions."

However, union leaders say they've been left out of discussions about COVID-19 safety and safely bringing students back into classrooms.

"So many of our colleagues, families, and students have great ideas about how to do this right and how to be as safe as possible," said MFT president Greta Callahan. "We are being completely shutout of the conversation."

MFT members say there simply isn't enough staff to handle the demand.

"We don't have a plan for staffing health offices daily in each building, we don't have substitutes for nurses, and we don't have people to implement saliva testing for every two weeks," McCracken said. "Without clear plans we should not be setting a timeline to open."

Moving forward, the teacher's union is asking the district to agree on class size caps, COVID-19 saliva testing requirements, and distancing measures.

Mary Turner, the president of the Minnesota Nurses Association, says the safety concerns should continue to worry district leaders across Minnesota.

"You say that children maybe don't get the virus or get it as bad, but they can sure be asymptomatic carriers," Turner said. "And you know who I am going to see in my ICU? I am going to moms, dads, and the grandmas and grandpas. You're talking about this pain, suffering, and trauma that is so avoidable."

Turner believes rushing to reopen schools could have dire results, especially if there's no limit on the amount of students inside classrooms, mixed with a PPE shortage and limited vaccinations of educators.

"This is shameful, unconscionable, and just plain honest-to-God wrong," Turner said. "Any death that occurs through these rash decisions, is on their hands. They're the decision makers and they need to take responsibility."