The order comes just before hundreds of Minneapolis teachers and staff were supposed to return to the classroom Monday in accordance with a Jan. 19 vote by the school board. Pre-K through fifth-grade students were set to phase in a return to in-person classes starting Feb. 8.
Earlier in the week, the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and Education Support Professionals filed an unfair labor practice with the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) and an injunction with the court to stop the district from making one-sided changes to their contracts without bargaining.
The injunction filed Thursday, which received a hearing Friday afternoon, specifically requested the court order the school district to stop reassigning teachers before the contractual reassignment process was followed and stop refusing to accept accommodation requests under Gov. Tim Walz’s Executive Order 20-82.
It also stressed that schools shouldn’t reopen until more safety measures are in place, including ramped up vaccine availability for teachers and staff members.
The court granted a limited temporary restraining order enjoining the district from requiring that members return to work in person on Monday if they have already obtained accommodations to work from home or are currently seeking them. The court also agreed that the district appears to have unilaterally changed the teacher contract’s reassignment procedures. The union is likely to succeed on this issue with the PERB and will pursue this issue in their unfair labor practices complaint.
In its conclusion of the law pertaining to this order, the court stated that accommodations should be permitted due to the balance of harms.
“The risk of contracting a serious illness which has killed almost a half-million persons in the United States is axiomatically a profound harm,” District Judge Susan Robiner wrote in the ruling.
The order also stated that because it understands at least 40% of Minneapolis students have chosen to remain distance learners, the district should be able to have educators provide remote instruction to remote learners instead of reporting to a school building to do so.
“Here, remaining at home has been an acceptable, reasonable accommodation since March 2020,” the ruling states. “And while Members working from home will likely not be able to perform essential functions for classroom learners, they have already demonstrated they are able to perform the essential functions without undue hardship for students who remain remote learners.”
A Minneapolis Public Schools survey found nearly 50% of parents wanted their children to return to school.