Education Minnesota reacts to push by Republican lawmakers for in-person school this fall

Jessica Miles
Updated: July 13, 2020 11:12 PM
Created: July 13, 2020 05:17 PM

Gov. Tim Walz is set to make an announcement regarding schools in two weeks. However, as the last week of July approaches, numerous groups are voicing their opinions. 

"I think the schools should be opened up for the classroom setting," said Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, a Republican from Nisswa.

"I think schools are essential, we have essential businesses, I think we should be calling schools essential as well," he added.

"I think there’s just a lot of anxiety and worry about what (it) would look like," responded Denise Specht, the president of Education Minnesota, a Minnesota teacher's union.

She says teachers want to be back with their students, but want to do it safely.

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"I think when the health experts and scientists tell us what is safe to do, then it is up to the individual school districts to implement the best model," she said. 

Gazelka believes all decisions should be left to individual districts and says schools already do that to some extent.

"We do that for things already like the flu, if 10% of a school has it, they close it down for a week," Gazelka said.

But Specht wants science and health officials to lead that decision making.

"I think the decisions about this fall are going to continue to be public health decisions," she said. "We are still in the middle of a pandemic."

Already, cities like Los Angeles, San Diego and Nashville have announced remote only this fall.

Other countries are trying different approaches.

In some European countries, schools are bringing the youngest learners and those with the most challenges back to buildings, middle school students will learn on a hybrid model and high school students will participate in distance learning. 

"That’s one idea that is out there that I have heard of," Specht said.

Asked if she would support something like that here in Minnesota, she said, "As long as it can be done safely, absolutely."

The governor's decision on fall learning will come the week of July 27.

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