Minneapolis students return to class after 3-week teacher strike

Teachers greeted students with hugs and high fives

Minneapolis teachers strike in front of the governor's residence.
Allis Cooney-Iverson, a third grade student at Seward holds a sign as thousands of Minneapolis school teachers and support staff rally for increased funding for public education in St. Paul on March 18. Students on Tuesday returned to Minneapolis Public Schools’ classrooms after the teachers' strike in the district.
Kerem Yücel for MPR News file

Valerie White and Curtis Mayfield Jr. dropped their 10-year-old daughter off at Jenny Lind Elementary early on Tuesday morning. They both said they were relieved school is back in session after Minneapolis teachers voted to ratify a contract with the district over the weekend, ending a strike that lasted close to three weeks.  

“It was difficult, us working, somebody having to be there with the child because we have nowhere else for her to be safe in other than her school and learning,” Mayfield said. “We’re glad. My job is glad.” 

Both said they’d had to miss work while their daughter was out of class. 

“She’s been missing getting up for school, getting dressed girly. She’s happy and excited,” White said. “It’s a relief.” 

Approximately 30,000 students were out of school during the strike. Minneapolis neighborhoods were full of yellow school buses and parents shuttling children to drop off meetings in front of district school buildings. 

Amber Delaney dropped her fifth grade daughter Alice off in front of Jenny Lind Elementary.

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“I know she’s missed her teachers and her friends. She’s missed the normalcy of going to school every day,” Delaney said. “I think it is a good indicator that teachers are getting what they deserve. … They work really hard and they’re just doing what our children need.”

A group of adults stand outside a school building.
Teachers gather outside North Community High School to welcome students back on Tuesday a three-week teacher's strike.
Elizabeth Shockman | MPR News

Extended school year

District leaders have adjusted school calendars to make up for instruction time required by state law that was lost during the strike. Friday April 1 will be an instructional day, and the school year will be extended to June 24. Starting April 11, the school day will be extended by 42 minutes each day. 

Minneapolis Federation of Teachers leaders say their new contract, which 76 percent of teachers who voted ratified, includes a two percent annual salary increase over two years and a one-time $3,000 bonus. The education support professionals contract includes a one-time payment of $6,000 over two years, and wage increases between two to four dollars per hour. 

Other contract wins include class size caps and mental health supports for students, like a guarantee for a nurse, school counselor, psychologist and social worker at every secondary school building. Plus, a minimum of one social worker in every building and .5 licensed school nurses in every school, meaning one nurse will have to cover more than one school.

Strike disruptions

George Jackson, parent to two students at North High School said the strike meant he had to stock his pantry with extra food and make lots of shuttle runs to the gym to make sure his sons could keep in shape for high school sports. 

“They were ready to get back to school. And I was too. This is crazy,” Jackson said. “Every day I’d ride down the street and I would see those teachers on strike. I would not blow my horn for them because they need to be working.” 

For many at North Community High School, the strike came at a difficult moment, just over a month after school buildings closed during an omicron surge and only weeks after the fatal shooting of student Deshaun Hill.

Math teacher Malcolm Lee stood outside the North High School building in the cold with other teachers to welcome students back and cheer as they returned. He said the community at North has felt like a family, and welcoming students back felt like welcoming family back. 

“The strike I’m sure was hard on them,” Lee said. “I appreciate the fight — fighting for us, for the students, for the ESPs (education support professionals). It’s just great that it’s over and that we can get back to work.”