It's mid-July, and it's time to put together a sustainable plan so that educators and families can prepare for the fall. As a middle-school teacher in the metro area, I strongly support a hybrid model that rotates students week-to-week, not day-to-day as is being considered across the country. A student body would be split into three cohorts, and each cohort would attend one four-day week in person followed by two weeks of distance learning.
This model builds in quarantine time automatically, which will help us prevent spread via asymptomatic cases even with limited testing capacity. A four-day week gives teachers Monday or Friday to plan, grade and catch up on communications with students and families. It also empties the school building for three days, long enough for the virus to dissipate even if we are unable to procure sufficient cleaning supplies or personnel to do the cleaning. The curriculum would be 100% online, with in-school time dedicated to academic and social/emotional support. This would minimize teachers' extra planning load by keeping all students on the same lesson schedule, accommodate families who are unable or unwilling to send their child to school, and allow flexibility in staffing and spacing in school.
Though not ideal, this week-to-week hybrid model best represents a reasonable workload for teachers, a predictable routine for children and families, and a chance at safe and sustainable in-person learning.
Johannah Scheu, Minneapolis
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As a former teacher and school administrator, I propose that schools return full time with only first through third grades. If there still remains room to safely distance on-site, schools could add a high-needs kindergarten class. Kindergarten is not required in Minnesota and while some families may be disappointed and inconvenienced, a few months' delay will not be detrimental to a majority of children. However, the formative learning years are critical for first-, second- and third-graders. Once children fall behind in reading, it is a miracle for them to catch up with peers.
All other classroom teachers with proficiency in distance learning should be assigned to the other grades. Students who are older have a better grasp of technology, and with longer attention spans, they can still learn productively. Parents are going to need help this fall and most cannot be teachers and work well while they are at home with children. I am hopeful that someone at the Department of Education has already given some thought to this concept.
Beverly Fritz, Richfield
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Apparently Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, thinks that Gov. Tim Walz is willing to make a completely unilateral ruling on opening schools, saying, "One person cannot determine how best students can be educated during this pandemic."
Does she consult her staff before she makes decisions? Does she think that Gov. Walz doesn't? Good heavens.
Dennis Nelson, Andover
FIFTH DISTRICT RACE
Omar is the progressive we need
Rep. Ilhan Omar is a progressive in the truest sense of the word. Antone Melton-Meaux is a liberal, but not a true progressive. Their differences in health care illustrate that difference and why I support Omar, and why it is so important that she remains in Congress.
Omar actively advocates for single-payer health care, which covers everyone, is the most rational and has the best results with the lowest cost of any health delivery system in the world. Melton-Meaux would not push for it but would vote for it if it came to the floor. How's it going to come to the floor for a vote without a push? Who in this country can give it a push?
It takes true progressives like Omar to bring legislation that challenges the status quo to a vote. What was once thought to be politically impossible takes people from reliably liberal districts to make it possible. If people from reliably progressive districts don't take on progressive legislation, nothing progressive happens. It takes active and energetic progressives like Omar to stick their necks out for progressive legislation to pass and become reality, not big-money-attracting politicians who will wait for change to come to him like Melton-Meaux.
Paul Rozycki, Minneapolis
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The news that millions of dollars are flowing into the Fifth District race from wealthy out-of-state donors provides a perfect example of why campaign finance reform is needed. Ours is supposed to be a system of government in which citizens choose a few of their fellow citizens to represent them. In turn, those elected are expected to act in the best interests of those within their legislative districts. This is the essence of representative government.
How, then, does it make any sense that massive spending from outside legislative districts to influence elections has become acceptable? Why is it OK that spending by a tiny group of elites, or of special-interest super PACs, is allowed to overwhelm individual campaign contributions and to dominate influence of those who are elected? We need campaign finance reform, and we need it now. The American Promise website outlines what you can do to help in the effort to restore election integrity.
Jim Bowyer, North Oaks
Decaying food doesn't warm globe
Thanks to Prof. Amanda Little for her article regarding food waste ("There's no excuse for the food you're wasting," July 20). Certainly, we can all be more conscious of our food-buying habits and utilization, and reduce food waste. But one topic she raised in her article needs addressing — food waste contribution to climate change.
All foods have their origins from photosynthesis — plants capturing solar energy, combining atmospheric carbon and water, to form sugars, carbohydrates, cellulose, vegetable oils, proteins and other biomass. Animals (and people) that eat these plants are simply one step away from this photosynthetic origin. But all of this carbon chemistry is based on biogenic carbon, not fossil carbon. All types of biomass (plants or animals) that live, die and decay return carbon to the biogenic carbon cycle, which has been ongoing for thousands of centuries — but this is not driving climate change! A thorough review of carbon mass balance data clearly indicates that climate change is being driven only, and completely, by the burning of fossil fuels — coal, petroleum, natural gas.
Little's article did not mention using "food wastes" via anaerobic digestion to generate renewable natural gas, which can be used to replace fossil fuels. In fact, biogenic carbon has been converted to methane and CO2 via natural anaerobic digestion in freshwater swamps and saltwater marshes for centuries, with no impact on climate.
Stop blaming climate change on biogenic carbon! Stop blaming climate change on agriculture. This is only a distraction from the real problem — burning fossil fuels.
Kirk Cobb, White Bear Lake
The writer is a retired biofuels engineer.
My city allowed it, and we're fine
As a former Austinite (Texas, that is), I'd like to reassure readers of the Star Tribune that the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board's recent proposal to allow toplessness in public parks won't put Minneapolis into a hell-bound hand basket ("City parks may allow all to go topless," July 16). Austin has had similar laws for as long as I can remember. As children, my siblings and I spent long summer hours at the pool, occasionally in the presence of topless women. We all turned out to be well-adjusted, contributing members of society. I doubt that the citizens of Minneapolis will suffer a worse fate.
Hillis Byrnes, Minneapolis
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