One of the state’s largest school districts has shuttered its doors to students since March 8. The Minneapolis Federation of Teachers local 59 have been on strike for over three weeks. Once again, students are out of the school and classes are canceled; earlier in January of this year Minneapolis Public Schools had to transition to virtual learning, due to mass staff shortages spurred by the Omicron Variant of COVID-19.
Professor Allison Baker, the Chair of the Art Department, sent an email to her students opening her classroom for student parents and students with childcare responsibilities to bring their kids or younger family members.
“I have always sort of felt really strongly about supporting Hamline students that have children because I know how hard it is to have a foot in both worlds. But I think moreover, particularly it’s something that I would hope more faculty have become aware of, [especially] through the course of the pandemic; is that it’s not just students that have children, but it’s students that have caregiving responsibilities for their siblings and or of other young people in the home,” Baker said.
Baker felt called to offer this support, in part due to her own childhood experiences.
“When I was really young, my mom was taking night classes to get her associate’s degree… When she was taking night classes, she couldn’t afford a babysitter. So she would often take
me to class with her; and we were always really fortunate that her faculty were supportive of that,” Baker said.
While no students have taken her up on the offer yet, she says it is important to have faculty that understand the struggle some students face between their education and their childcare responsibilities. The pandemic exposed some of those struggles, and she argues it is pertinent that we don’t forget the lessons we learned during the height of life’s disruptions.
“For me, the least we can do as faculty is support our students that are parents or students that have other childcare responsibilities, where you know, we want our students to be in class and we don’t want our students missing class because they don’t have anywhere to bring their child or they don’t have anywhere to bring their sibling and someone has to be watching them throughout the day. I really, really feel for single parents, like what do you possibly do?” Baker said
While she doesn’t have school aged children in Minneapolis Public Schools, Baker says she is supportive of the teachers and their union’s decision to strike.
“They’re striking because they’re trying to improve the learning conditions of these students that they care so deeply about; and it’s at a huge financial cost to them. They’re not getting paid right now,” Baker said. “My heart just breaks for them, like what an awful situation to be in and I wish them the best. I hope that all of their demands are met and they get what they know is best for their students.”