When Gov. Tim Walz ordered schools to plan for weeks of distance learning in March, I honestly thought schools might close for the rest of the year, and on Thursday they did (“Schools to remain shuttered this spring,” front page, April 24).

I had to go to school to pick up some supplies, and as I walked through the building, I mourned. Because we work on trimesters, I had gotten to know some students for only a week before distance learning was called. As I read their words in their submissions online, I try to see more of the person submitting their work. How are you doing? How can I help you? This is a pandemic, so they are dealing with more than I can imagine, particularly those students with mental health diagnoses or with families on the front line.

Every time I see a student on Google Meet, my face lights up. I am seeing my students! I worry about them, and I mourn for lost opportunities to get to know them and their dreams. I struggled when Walz said the rest of the school year would be distance learning. I mourn the loss of opportunities to get to know the amazing students I teach as I walk by them in class. I hope that I can do the best I can to educate and inspire them. And I send prayers and good wishes to them all: You are amazing human beings, and I will do my best to know you and celebrate your gifts in the situation we are in.

Jennifer Larson, Maple Grove

• • •

Thanks to the Star Tribune and its reporters for the coverage on Walz’s order to close K-12 classrooms for the rest of the academic year and to continue distance learning. As a parent of three elementary students, I appreciate the governor’s effort in keeping the community safe and flattening the curve. Even if schools were to reopen on May 4, I would be hesitant to have my children return to school, so this decision at least helps ease off some of that stress.

There has been much criticism on how distance learning is putting stress on parents and children, and while I agree it can be stressful at times, I’d much rather have my family be safe than be put at risk. Distance learning may not provide students with the same learning quality as a teacher does, but it is an alternative way to help keep students engaged and learning for now. I am hopeful that Walz will continue to put Minnesotans’ safety and well-being first as the shelter-in-place is slowly coming to an end.

Lou Vang, St. Paul

• • •

The University of Minnesota and the Minnesota State College and University boards are wrestling with the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather than merely squeezing our current structure, now is the time to reorganize the structure of higher education in Minnesota.

There are 59 campuses across Minnesota in the Minnesota State system and the U system. Most of these campuses fall under the state system, which has an administrative office that duplicates many of the functions already performed at the U. With all the attention focused on administrative costs, certainly folding all that collegiate education together would produce some long-term savings. More important, focusing collegiate instruction under one umbrella would allow the state to look to one resource to deliver on the promise of education, research and outreach.

Accompanying the consolidation of collegiate instruction would be the re-establishment of a vocation/technical education board. The pandemic has highlighted the invaluable contributions made by our tradespeople and technicians to the state’s economy. Consider all the careers needed to support our individual and business needs that don’t require a collegiate degree — careers that will never be outsourced. We need to be sure these career paths are given equal opportunity.

Lastly, in the face of declining enrollments, we must closely examine the number of higher-education campuses and the addition of any new space. The current crisis has likely accelerated our abilities to deliver distance learning and students’ acceptance of this practice. It is not going away. Geographic access will become less important. If we want to have high-quality higher education in Minnesota, we must find more cost-effective ways to deliver it.

I encourage Walz and the Legislature to create a bipartisan task force to map out administrative and delivery alternatives for higher education in Minnesota.

Nicholas LaFontaine, Richfield

WORKPLACE DISTANCING

We can’t reopen sans enforcement

I had my snow tires changed over to my summer tires this week. There’s no need to rat out the establishment or even single it out, because I’m quite certain what I am about to describe is happening in many businesses still open: three workers at the front desk, all within arms-length of each other leaning over each other to get to phones, paperwork and receipt printers. No masks. None of the mechanics wearing masks either. For that matter, the half dozen or so customers packed into a small waiting room space — no masks. Why have we shut down the economy, closed schools and ordered everyone to stay home and maintain social distancing when workplace behavior is so uncontrolled?

We only need to look toward the meatpacking industry for evidence of lax work processes and safety. What happens in the workplace if social mitigation is not enforced as we reopen? We need to go beyond public health and epidemiological monitoring and bring in occupational health into the discussion to develop safe work standards until a proven working vaccine is developed.

PAUL JAMES, Eden Prairie

• • •

If I want to purchase some jewelry, I can go to big box stores such as Target and Walmart along with several hundred of my not-so-close friends.

But I can’t go to a small jewelry store with maybe two salespeople and two or so customers.

If I want to purchase some clothes, I can go to big box stores such as Target and Walmart along with several hundred of my not-so-close friends.

But I can’t go to a small clothing store with maybe two salespeople and two or so customers.

Am I the only one who would feel safer in the smaller stores and doesn’t understand why they can’t be open?

It’s easier to control what is happening in those small stores.

Mike McLean, Richfield

• • •

U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer and state Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka recently wrote: “We should trust our small businesses and employers to do the best thing for their employees and customers” (“Let’s work together on a plan to reopen Minnesota’s economy,” April 18). When I advised a business (this happened to be a newly opened public golf course) that I observed five obviously not-related gentlemen standing shoulder to shoulder on a tee, the representative who replied told me that, although they try to keep an eye on things, the ultimate responsibility will fall on the golfers to keep 6 feet of social distance. Evidently, at least one small business is shifting that “trust” to their customers.

Douglas L. Johnson, Minnetonka

• • •

Once again, our government leaders send mixed signals about public safety during this pandemic.

Thursday’s paper contained two articles regarding the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. According to one article, OSHA is leaving it up to employers to monitor workplace safety (“OSHA leaves employers to self-monitor”). The other article, focusing on the Grand Forks surge in COVID-19 cases, quotes the mayor, Michael Brown, as stating that the city has no authority to enforce workplace safety. That’s OSHA’s job, he said (“Warnings unheeded, viral ‘bomb’ hits N.D.,” front page).

Whose job is it?

A. Hansen, St. Louis Park

 

 

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