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Teacher absences a concern as classes resume after holiday break

The Minneapolis teacher's union president describes the staffing situation as "a disaster."

MINNEAPOLIS — As students return to school from winter break, the staffing situation at Minneapolis Public Schools is described by the union president in stark terms.

"It's a disaster. It's utter chaos. It's been all year long. We have multiple staff out at every single site," said Greta Callahan, president of Minneapolis Federation of Teachers  

According to the district, 285 teachers were absent Monday.

"Obviously it puts pressure on our system and our district," said Superintendent Ed Graff.

But in a virtual press conference, Graff went back and forth on whether that number is significant or not, because he said this school year the district has ranged between 200 and 300 teachers out on any given day. 

The district would not provide a basis for comparison from years prior to the pandemic. 

"I think it's hard to determine at this point, because what's typical anymore?" Graff said.

"That's a big number. That means a school like Sanford Middle School has about 14 teachers out today," Callahan said.

Callahan said one consequence when there aren't enough subs to cover sick teachers is that other classroom teachers lose their prep time and take turns covering each period in the missing teacher's room.

"What that means then is that classroom has six or seven teachers filling in to sub for them in one day and our students are not having prepared lessons," 

Superintendent Graff described the predicament facing school administrators during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Ultimately we are balancing the need to keep our students safe while also ensuring that they're learning," Graff said.

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