Minnesota teachers union wants distance learning, but CDC recommends in-person schooling

A revised CDC guidance issued last week notes that deaths among children during the COVID-19 pandemic “are less than in each of the last five flu seasons.”

Education Minnesota President Denise Specht speaks at an event outside the State Capitol. (Image credit: Twitter via @seiumn)

Education Minnesota, the state’s teachers union, wants to continue with distance learning in the fall, but a recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said “in-person schooling is in the best interest of students.”

The union recently released the results of a survey of its members, which found that 49 percent of teachers prefer distance learning. Another 17 percent favor a return to in-person classes while 29 percent said they would like a hybrid of the two options.

A total of 20,524 educators responded to the survey, representing 24 percent of the union’s 86,000 members.

“Educators are worried about the health of their students, their colleagues, and their own families. If schools are not ready to safely reopen, then distance learning should continue,” Education Minnesota President Denise Specht said, claiming most schools and campuses do not have the resources to reopen safely.

She also said she voted in favor of an American Federation of Teachers resolution that calls for an infection rate below five percent and a transmission rate below one percent before school buildings reopen.

A revised CDC guidance issued last week, however, notes that deaths among children during the COVID-19 pandemic “are less than in each of the last five flu seasons.”

“Based on current data, the rate of infection among younger school children, and from students to teachers, has been low, especially if proper precautions are followed. There have also been few reports of children being the primary source of COVID-19 transmission among family members,” states the guidance.

“This is consistent with data from both virus and antibody testing, suggesting that children are not the primary drivers of COVID-19 spread in schools or in the community. No studies are conclusive, but the available evidence provides reason to believe that in-person schooling is in the best interest of students, particularly in the context of appropriate mitigation measures similar to those implemented at essential workplaces,” it continues.

The agency said the “best available evidence” indicates that COVID-19 “poses low risks to school-aged children, at least in areas with low community transmission, and suggests that children are unlikely to be major drivers of the spread of the virus.”

“Reopening schools creates opportunity to invest in the education, well-being, and future of one of America’s greatest assets – our children – while taking every precaution to protect students, teachers, staff and all their families,” the guidance concludes.

An informal survey of Minnesota parents conducted by the Department of Education found that 64 percent of respondents would feel comfortable sending their children back to school in September. Of that 64 percent, 94 percent said they would send their children back to school full time.

Less than 12 percent of respondents said they would not feel comfortable sending their children back to school, citing concerns about public health.

Gov. Tim Walz is expected to announce his plan for the upcoming school year on Thursday.