Republican Sen. Michelle Benson appealed to the commissioners of the Minnesota Department of Health and Department of Education in a letter this week, asking that students be allowed back in school as soon as possible.
“Distance learning has exacerbated educational disparities and worsened the achievement gap which we have worked so hard to close,” Benson wrote. “It is devastating to see the rise in cases of child abuse and mental illness resulting from children being in social isolation.”
Her letter pointed out that children with special needs are dealing with challenges now that stem from being denied essential services, in many cases.
Benson stated that distance learning has taken a “mental, physical, intellectual, and emotional” toll on everyone involved, including teachers, parents, and students. She argued that children need to be able to not only interact with their classmates but play and grow with them as well.
“Additionally,” Benson wrote, “safely reopening our schools is crucial to reopening the rest of our economy. Minnesota families are stressed juggling work, educating, and parenting.”
Benson urged the commissioners to give priority to educators when the vaccine becomes safely available.
“Getting control of COVID-19 in our education system is of the utmost importance … Our teachers want to be back in the classrooms with their students. We must help ensure their safety by giving them priority to receive COVID-19 vaccines,” Benson said.
She called letting students back into school as soon as possible “vitally important” for Minnesota’s future.
“Let us all work together to give our children the best opportunity to learn and become their best,” wrote Benson, a deputy majority leader and chair of the Health and Human Services Committee.