By Robert Kohnert, Social Studies Teacher at Southwest High School

Generally, after a break there is a higher number of absences for both students and staff. However, this week has been different from any other time than I have experienced in my 10 years in Minneapolis. 

The concerns related to COVID-19 have spread throughout the school as more people are testing positive for the virus. It was reported one day last week that we had 23 staff members out. 

Each morning, we receive emails asking for other staff to cover classes that do not currently have substitute teachers. The shortage of staff has meant that administration and student support professionals are covering classes while also trying to meet their other responsibilities. 

I have experienced classes where 40% are absent. This, and even higher percentages, have been the case for many educators at Southwest and across the district. Students are anxious as they see more of their peers missing in their classes. There is a shortage of tests for students at the school. Many students have also expressed anxiety related to missing class to quarantine or recover from COVID. 

Our site administration, staff, students, and families are trying their best but there is a strain on the system that is making the operation of classes and the school very difficult for everyone. 

It’s unclear to many staff and students how the district is responding to the concerns and experiences of those affected by the absences and spread of the virus at Southwest this week. 

Each day, I receive at least one new COVID notification and have been receiving several emails each day with new students who will be missing in-person learning.