Guest teacher Fatawu Sayibu gave a group of curious first- to fifth-graders at the City of Lakes Waldorf School a glimpse of his culture on Thursday. He coached them on how to do African drumming. Downstairs in the gymnasium, older kids walked on a tightrope while some stood atop balls, juggling rings and hula hoops, practicing days before their annual circus performance.
Though it was still too cold to play outside, the students and the school made the most of their indoor spaces as they returned after nearly a week off because of the cold snap.
The south Minneapolis private school was among the few in the Twin Cities that braved the subzero temperatures and resumed classes. Most of the big public school districts around the metro area were closed. They’re expected to reopen Friday.
The issue facing Minnesota schools that have been disrupted by the cold weather is that they won’t meet the minimum instructional time required each school year. By law, school districts are required to provide at least 165 days of instruction for students in grades 1-11 (except for districts with approved four-day weekly schedules).
Minneapolis Superintendent Ed Graff has sent a letter to Gov. Tim Walz and Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker, asking if they could waive the statute. In January, Minneapolis Public Schools had only 12 days of instructional time.
But state officials are considering a one-time accommodation and have promised that there won’t be any financial penalty against schools that fall short. “The governor has assured local school districts that they will not be penalized for keeping their students safe,” a spokesperson for Walz’s office said.
At the Waldorf School, parents and students got a head start on getting back to normal.
“After three days of being closed, there were many families who were needing to go back to work,” said administrative director Marti Stewart.. “Parents need to work and often have to work even when school is closed and so just trying to find that balance, but always student safety is the first.”
Sabrina Swinnea, who has two children attending Waldorf, said it was easier on her family because she’s a stay-at-home mom. But her kids were too eager to return to school, she said. “They had some fun on the days off, but they were just ready to come back. They missed their friends.”
Waldorf generally follows the Minneapolis Public Schools weather announcements because the district provides busing to a handful of students who attend the school. Stewart said those parents are willing to collect their kids when Minneapolis has snow days.
“Because we don’t have children waiting for school buses, it really depends on parents that have cars that can start and get here,” she said.
The building was bursting with students and staff Thursday afternoon, but school officials said they were going to excuse the few students who were absent. Stewart said she and other school officials made the decision to close school Monday at 10:30 a.m., way after Minneapolis and other neighboring schools announced school closures. And for three days in a row, they remained closed.
“It’s kind of hard to stand alone,” Stewart said. “No one is going to get mad at you if you go with what everybody else is doing.”