Update: March 7, 8:30 a.m.
Members of teachers unions in both Minneapolis and St. Paul spent the weekend making and distributing picket signs ahead of a possible strike as early as Tuesday.
Nevertheless, union members said they want to avoid a walkout.
“We are here ready to mediate with the district up until Tuesday, and we're doing everything we can to get a settlement,” said Natasha Dockter, a middle school teacher and spokesperson for the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers.
Among other things, the unions in Minneapolis and St. Paul are seeking caps on class sizes, higher wages for paraprofessionals, and more mental health support for students.
Both the MFT and Minneapolis Public Schools said negotiations lasted for hours on Saturday and Sunday, with proposals presented from both sides.
But in an update sent early Monday, just after midnight, the union said no progress had been made after a mediation session that lasted more than 12 hours. Union officials claimed the district "is not even pretending to avoid a strike."
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Mediation was set to resume Monday morning.
In St. Paul, in an update posted to social media early Monday, the St. Paul Federation of Educators said "the district responded early this morning to our proposals package, including class size language, mental health supports and educator compensation. We are reviewing the latest offer and will reconvene bargaining later this morning."
"Nobody wants to go on strike. None of the teachers do. None of the staff wants to,” said Ruth Krider, a second-grade teacher in St. Paul. “But for the kids, and for the students, and for their learning environment, it just needs to happen. We can bend, but we won't break."
Schools will operate as normal on Monday in both cities, but will close beginning Tuesday if no agreement is reached.
St. Paul students will have access to academic activities through iPads. The district will also open limited “Kid Space” programs in most elementary schools beginning Wednesday. Breakfast and lunch will be available for students under 18.
In Minneapolis, a meal bag containing breakfast and lunch for students will be available daily. MPS may also have limited child care spots available on an emergency basis. The district is urging parents to find other child care options.