AP Richard Marshall for Education Minnesota
Amidst a global pandemic and racial unrest, Minneapolis Public Schools began the 2020-21 school year. Friday, Sep 4, the DFL Party leaders, educators, and Minnesota parents hosted a call concerning school reopening. The DFL Party then released a press release with excerpts from the call. President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos were criticized for their “chaotic approach to school reopening”.
According to Education Minnesota President Denise Specht, a fourth-generation teacher, “Reopening school buildings is the most difficult thing any of us in education have ever done,” said Specht. “We are trying to do it safely for children for staff and with special consideration of our communities of color, which have been made especially vulnerable by years of racist policies in housing, health care, criminal justice, and other areas.”
DFL Party leaders are concerned about President Trump’s “complete disregard” on opening schools safely. Specht believes that it did not have to be this difficult. Both she and House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler believe President Trump and Education Secretary DeVos are actively working against families in the state of Minnesota.
Winkler, a father of three sons in elementary school, junior high, and high school, feels that President Trump has left him and other Minnesota parents “holding the bag in this pandemic”. “The President has consistently downplayed the threat [and] has not had a national strategy to address testing, or many of the other responses essential to get a handle on COVID,” said Winkler. “He is encouraging bizarre conspiracy theories and fanning the flames of resentment against any basic concepts of public health at a time when people actually need people who know what they’re doing [and] to have a plan and implement it.”
Saint Louis Park resident Bethany Penna also expressed concern about school safety. “The irresponsible and politically motivated push for under prepared schools and teachers to open with next to no concrete guidance on safety measures is terrifying. It scares me as a mom. It scares me as a community member. And it terrifies me as a nurse”. Penna believes Trump could have devised and implemented a plan to reduce risk of families’ exposure to COVID-19. “There were ways that we could have made this a comprehensive, workable distance-based learning plan for everyone,” said Penna. “But instead, President Trump chose to spread conspiracy theories, ignore science, and bully schools into reopening. Frankly, he’s exhibited behavior I would never allow in my own children.”
School reopening during these times can increase the stress many Minnesota families are already feeling, but Specht believes in the strength of Minnesotans. “Most of us in Minnesota, whatever our race, gender or zip code, believe that our families and neighborhoods are stronger, safer, and healthier when we come together to overcome shared challenges and develop solutions together,” said Specht. “During this pandemic, Minnesota’s public schools have helped keep our communities connected by serving as sites to distribute supplies, provide meals, and keep families informed even as our schools help slow the spread of the virus by educating students at home”.
Are you a parent juggling homeschooling and classes? How is it going? Do you have any advice or words of encouragement for Minneapolis College parents? If so, leave a comment or send us your story.
Anya Savvy is a pen name for a Minneapolis College student who works as a reporter for City College News. To contact Anya, please email them at anya [at] citycollegenews.com.