Readers Write: Minneapolis district redesign, distance learning, stay-home orders –


As noted in “Unfazed, Graff stays course” (May 10) Superintendent Ed Graff is in the spotlight as the Comprehensive District Design comes to a vote, and we want to be very clear that he and his board are not listening to our community’s needs.

Supporters may feel that this plan is about taking away from wealthy, white families in south Minneapolis, but in truth, immigrant communities stand to lose more than all others. Our families are in the schools that will be eliminated in this plan. Today, the majority of our families are in schools where immigrants live and thrive. But in the CDD, Minneapolis Public Schools didn’t look at that, and it treats families of color as one homogenous group.

We value K-8 schools where our children can be together, where older children can watch out for younger ones and the schools build relationships with our families over a substantial period of time. We feel safe in these schools, having our children in one place, on the same schedule, and with one building to go to that supports and nurtures our children. We are in the schools we chose because they have honored our language and culture, particularly by offering International Baccalaureate, dual immersion and dual language programs. We specifically choose magnet schools because it means no matter where we live, we can stay in that school.

We do not feel heard, even though we speak, we write, we scream, we cry — and it still feels like no one is listening.

Zeinab Omar and Silvia Ibáñez

The writers are MPS mothers and educators.

I am confused by those who think we need more time before a vote on Minneapolis schools’ redesign and argue it’s being pushed through. Plans for the CDD have been under discussion for more than a year and a half. Various stakeholder groups have provided guidance. An earlier process was delayed and the district went back to the drawing board after public input in spring 2019.

In January, the district released several possible redesign models. There was more public input. Further modifications came out in February. I heard hours of public comment at the March 10 school board meeting. Then the district released a final plan (based on January’s models). April’s board meeting included hours more public comment taken via voice messages (a much more equitable way for public input than at an in-person meeting at 5:30 p.m. on a weekday). The May board meeting will have more public comment.

The CDD is a first step toward stabilizing MPS and instituting changes that will set us up for a more equitable system with the potential to significantly benefit students who are not being well-served. The COVID-19 pandemic has only amplified the vast inequities in our school district. Weeks into “distance learning,” there are some students with whom teachers have still not made contact. The district is still working to get students access to technology so they can participate in school.

To those who think we need more delays and input, I ask, if not now, when?

Laureen Harbert, Minneapolis

The distance between kids’ performance, then and now

There is so much information about how COVID-19 is impacting the economy, about people being laid off, about the efficacy of wearing masks, about safety for health care workers and how people are suffering from this terrible sickness.

Today I want to talk about another group that’s suffering: our children.

I’m the mother of two high school students who are barely holding it together as they navigate online schooling. My sophomore, who typically carries a 3.4 grade-point average is currently rocking a 2.0. My senior, who has autism and anxiety disorders, will probably not graduate on time because it’s hard to adapt to online learning. My children don’t have the benefit of a home free from distraction; it was never intended to be an educational facility. Plus, they are not receiving even close to the support promised them in their individualized education plans. Their father and I aren’t available during the day to support their learning, nor do we have the training necessary to teach high school level classes.

Schools in states like Michigan have guaranteed no student will fail during COVID-19 if they were passing before school closure. They’ve determined it’s unfair to expect students to grasp online learning in a noneducational environment. Minnesota, specifically District 196, should follow their lead to ensure these exceptionally difficult semesters will not be held against our students. Teachers are doing a wonderful job, but it’s simply not enough.

Minnesota and District 196, show compassion on your students and give them the opportunity to learn without the distraction of failure.

Marla Rotman, Apple Valley


Want to reopen? Get that plan.

As the strain of emergency orders, stay-at-home orders and social distancing grow, so does the pressure to “open up America” and let any remaining businesses and organizations resume operations. These calls have come from all corners of society — from passionate and well-mannered groups of business owners and employees, but also from gun-toting mobs trying to intimidate politicians and irresponsible rhetoric from elected officials.

Many Republican state and local level politicians have engaged in stunts — like House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt threatening to hold the state’s bonding bill hostage until the governor lifted his executive order (with no criteria on COVID-19 spread in Minnesota) or former Rep. Jason Lewis, now a candidate for Senate, driving an RV around the state meeting in small groups with minimal social distancing and mask-wearing to let people air grievances about the pain of the pandemic, never acknowledging the seriousness of the virus. Meanwhile state leaders across the county are attempting to craft real opening plans in the void left by the White House.

Now we learn that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention created a detailed, fact- and science-based plan intended to give guidance to the country on how to open up safely (“Reopening guidelines from CDC sidelined,” front page, May 8, and “Top officials buried report, e-mails show,” May 9). This plan was approved, and per the Associated Press was killed at the “highest levels” of the White House.

This is exactly the information that people like Gov. Tim Walz could use to rely upon to safely accelerate the reopening of still-shuttered aspects of our economy. If the Republican politicians in Minnesota who claim to care so much about opening up the state want to do something that actually helps and put stunts aside, they can apply pressure to the Trump White House to publicize the guidance scientists and infectious disease experts have worked so hard to create. Let us get moving on safely charting a path to a new normal where science — and not political rhetoric — sets the course.

Mike Hess, Minneapolis

The number of people who are mistaking inconvenience for oppression during the stay-at-home order is truly mind-blowing. You’re not being oppressed because you can’t go camping. Sit down.

Ryan Fagan, Rosemount

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