I’d like to provide an update to our membership. I know it’s summer break, but it’s a summer unlike any we have experienced. No one knows what school will look like come September; there are more questions than answers. We are in the midst of a pandemic, civil unrest, and an upcoming, contentious election. Conflicting opinions are dividing some people while others are showing strength by uniting and finding ways to become part of the solution, knowing that there are no perfect answers.
The 336 school districts in Minnesota have been charged with preparing a plan to educate students for the 2020-21 school year. They have been provided with guidance from various sources such as Msba (Minnesota School Boards Association), MDH (Minnesota Department of Health) and the MDE (Minnesota Department of Education) to help with this planning. All of the guidance provided is available online for the general public. Each district must devise a plan to address several possible scenarios for the upcoming school year. Governor Walz is expected to announce a decision on July 30th as to how schools will reopen.
A communication from the district was sent out on 7/22/2020 (Roadmap to Reopening) that addressed the District planning practice. As President of AHPA, I am a member of the 30-member cross-functional steering committee as well as many of the working groups formed out of the committee and subcommittees formed out of the working groups. These groups are working diligently to foresee and address the needs of both staff and students in whatever model education takes place this fall.
A part of this communication asked employees to respond to a form that would share whether you intend to return to work in September (provided there will be in-person learning) based on whether yourself or an immediate family member have a high-risk health condition. I heard from members who had concerns over how this information would be used and who would have access to it. I shared this concern with the district and asked for clarification to be sent out regarding the confidentiality of this information. I have communicated with our attorneys regarding this matter as well as General Counsel for the district. While the intent of the form is to assist the district in planning for employees returning to work, it is voluntary. If you have any concerns with submitting this form, I would recommend that you wait until after the Governor makes an announcement on how schools will reopen. AHPA can share further guidance based on updated information at that time.
Please be careful where you get your information and don’t trust everything you hear. I have monitored some social media and find a lot of misinformation being shared. The district will put out communications when there is something new to share. AHPA will put out updates when decisions have been made and there is useful information that pertains to our membership.
During these uncertain times, it is important to be patient, even while it is difficult to put trust in others to make the important decisions that affect us so profoundly. There are no perfect answers, mistakes will be made and we may have to abide by decisions we don’t agree with. We must all do our best to stay safe, do what is in the best interest of our students and ultimately decide what is best for you and your loved ones!
Please take care and stay well!