Frequently Asked Questions
MSEA is working hard to retain your hours and benefits during this difficult time. If you have any questions, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. The State of Minnesota closed schools. Why do we have to work?
Executive Order 20-02 obligates school employees to report to work. “School employees are directed to report to work in accordance with applicable labor agreements and as required by their employers to assist with the emergency management planning activities provided in this Executive Order.”
A link to Executive Order 20-02 is: https://www.leg.state.mn.us/archive/execorders/20-02.pdf
2. What was the purpose of the two-week closure?
The purpose of two-week closure period was not to close schools for students and staff to shelter at home while a storm blows over. Executive Order 20-02 closed schools to students to allow staff to conduct certain operations.
- First, the two-week period was designed as a time for schools to plan for future weeks when buildings may be closed for classes. To that end, we have seen some school districts use support staff to prepare materials and equipment for distribution to students to take home.
- Second, the executive order mandated schools “to continue to provide support to Minnesota families, even while students are not in the classroom”. Schools need to continue important services, such as meals and mental health services for students in need. This past week, we have seen support staff working to prepare meals and go into the community to distribute them in an effort to support our students’ needs.
- Third, Executive Order 20-02 does direct schools to “act to minimize disruptions caused by school closures on the state’s healthcare system and emergency workers”. Schools are obligated to care for the children of these people. It is reasonable to expect a broadening of the definition of emergency worker to include additional classes of workers such as grocery, food service, and public utility workers among others. Most school districts voluntarily include the children of school employees. We are working to expand this definition for where they do not.
3. What has MSEA done to protect my income and safety during this time?
MSEA and other educational unions worked hard to ensure that hourly school employees were included as part of ongoing operations and given the opportunity to work. We worked to protect the income and insurance benefits of our working families. We will continue to fight to protect the economic security of you and your family going forward. We vividly remember the economic harm caused by last year’s frequent weather-related closures.
Further, the Governor issued a further executive order that expanded unemployment insurance eligibility. His executive order “makes applicants eligible for unemployment benefits if:
- A healthcare professional or health authority recommended or ordered them to avoid contact with others.
- They have been ordered not to come to their workplace due to an outbreak of a communicable disease.
- They have received notification from a school district, daycare, or other childcare provider that either classes are canceled or the applicant’s ordinary childcare is unavailable, provided that the applicant made reasonable effort to obtain other childcare and requested time off or other accommodation from the employer and no reasonable accommodation was available.”
Executive Order 20-02 does state “Nothing in this order should be construed to encourage or require Minnesotans in at-risk categories to take action inconsistent with public health recommendations or the advice of their doctors.” Therefore, if you are or a close family member is medically fragile and you meet the requirements not to work, you may want to explore your options with your health care provider and state unemployment to provide some income protection.
If you believe you may qualify for unemployment benefits, you should directly contact the State of Minnesota. A link to State Unemployment for further details is: https://www.uimn.org/applicants/needtoknow/news-updates/covid-19.jsp
4. What else is being done to protect our safety?
We recognize that people have safety concerns. The state is trying to find the delicate balance between employees’ safety, working families’ need for economic security, and the need to provide students, families, and communities vital services. Discussions continue between the Unions and the State of Minnesota on fine tuning this balance. MSEA and other education unions are forcefully advocating for staff safety measures.
Executive Order 20-02 does state “In providing this care, schools must practice hygiene and social distancing best practices.” The Minnesota Department of Health weblink for guidance on social distancing in schools is: https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/schools/socialdistance.pdf
The Minnesota Department of Health maintains a COVID-19 webpage to which you may refer. The URL is: https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/
5. If the State of Minnesota adopts a “shelter-in-place” directive like other states, will we have to go to work?
This is a tough question to answer since there currently is no directive in place. However, it is reasonable to expect school support personnel to be directed to report to work, despite a shelter in place directive. Consider the current situation, the government has placed a priority on providing essential services like meals and mental health despite the health emergency. The government has placed a priority on providing services for the children of essential community workers health care providers, police, and firefighters so that these people can continue working. Therefore, it is our expectation that school support staff will be expected to work during a shelter in place directive.