For teachers, Thursday’s announcement has at least provided an answer after months of anxiety about how school in the Fall would look, but there remain many unanswered questions, hard work, and difficult decisions ahead.
Even if they’re still not comfortable with possibly going back to in-person learning or concerned about the limitations of distance and hybrid learning, teachers can now do what they do best: plan.
“I feel a little bit better now that there’s some direction,” Burnsville high school English teacher Allison Millea said. “I think it was the unknown that was scaring everybody and if Walz had come out and said, ‘Nope, everyone’s going full in-peron all the time, my class sizes are huge so that’s just not possible. Knowing that there’s flexibility catered to every district, I think will be useful.”
The Safe Learning Plan does not apply to private schools, except they will be receiving masks.
“I bet the schools will face a lot of pressure from families and students anyway if they are not doing the same thing as the schools around them, “Andrew Bryzgornia, a middle and high school math at a private school in Eden Prairie, said. “While I am concerned, I am hopeful they will follow what was recommended from this announcement.”
Many teachers like Greta Callahan, a kindergarten teacher and president of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, said safety is their primary concern, which is why they do not want to see teachers back in a typical classroom setting.
“So frustrated actually,” Callahan said of Walz’s announcement. “There is no way this is normal and we're not going to get back to normal and even if we could, I don’t want to go back to the normal we had where my students don’t have the support they need, we are consistently defunded, consistently defunded in public education.”
It’s yet to be formally approved by the school district, but Minneapolis Public Schools this week announced a remote start called “distance learning with supports” which will allow some one-on-one instruction and mental health resources for those who need it.
An example of a complication in the rollout process is District 191, where Burnsville, Eagan and Savage students live in 2 different counties: Dakota and Scott.
Wendy Drugge Wuensch, President of the Burnsville Education Association, the union which represents staff in Burnsville-Eagan-Savage public schools, has questions about building preparedness, how students can access mental health resources, and the hybrid model.
“Just managing the distance learning was, for some teachers, a 14 to 16-hour day,” she said. “If teachers are now going to be responsible for managing both online and in-person instruction it will be almost an impossible job.