A group of Edina parents have taken aim at the decisions of the Edina School Board as it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic, citing “broken trust” and urging a return to class five days a week for all students.

In response, members of the Edina High School student-run newspaper blasted the group in an open-letter, stating the group’s demands are unsafe and misguided.

The group, called Edina Parents 4 Progress, published an open letter to the School Board Jan. 7. The letter, which had more than 850 signatures on Change.org as of Jan. 12, outlines grievances with the board, including claims of a lack of communication and transparency, lack of leadership in bringing students back to school sooner and a failure to put students first.

The group, which first launched in December, does not have designated leadership, but includes a website, Twitter, Facebook and email mailing list. On its website, it declares itself “A Voice For The Kids.”

The group’s website launched not long after the School Board met at the end of November to discuss moving students to a distance learning instead of the hybrid model. At first, only grades 3-12 shifted to distance learning, but by the end of the week all students had to make the switch.

The decision was made due to an exponential rise in cases in the city, county and state following Thanksgiving weekend.

The group’s open letter outlines “what has led us to this place of broken trust and absolute devastation as we survey the ruins around us. Many of those ruins are in the faces of our, and your, children.”

One of the grievances includes lack of communication with families through email and a change of streaming platform for the board’s special sessions, which are not recorded.

The letter also states a lack of leadership in pushing Gov. Tim Walz to adjust his “one-metric approach” to allow students back in school. The metric the group is referring to is the two-week case rate per 10,000 people in Hennepin County, which the state recommends as the measure for deciding on a learning model.

Until recently, this measure was the main factor. Walz has since adjusted guidance on this, adding more factors for bringing students back, such as the amount of COVID-19 testing for staff.

“Now that the Governor has moved to allow more information to guide the reopening of elementary, you get to be a recipient of that work, not an author of it,” the letter reads.

One of the largest grievances the group states includes the board not acknowledging the effect of their decisions on students. The group criticized the board’s seeming heightened worry for teachers instead of for students, calling the board meetings from November “breathtakingly tone-deaf.”

Late December, the school board decided to allow elementary students back to class for four days a week at first, then to five days a week later on, starting Jan. 25. There was no plan yet set for students in grades 6-12.

“We have lost our patience and are all out of grace,” the letter reads. “You have broken our trust and now we will be loud and present until we believe that you are paying as much attention to the students and this community as you have obviously paid to the teachers union and to one another.”

In all, the letter urges the school board to return all students to in-person class for five days per week.

“(At) the end of November, I felt very alone. Today, I feel like there are people who I can connect to,” said letter signatory Jeff Northrup, a parent of Edina High School students. “I’m very proud of the fact that someone’s standing up for these kids or at least doing it for my kids.”

Edina Zephyrus students respond to parents’ letter

Members of the student-run newspaper, the Edina Zephyrus, published their own letter criticizing the Edina Parents 4 Progress letter and website, citing concerns with a demand for an unsafe model of instruction and what they indicated is a mischaracterization of the School Board’s priorities. The members include Mia DiLorenzo, Isadora Li and Izzy Wagener.

“Parents for Progress claims to be a ‘Voice For The Kids’ on the front page of their website, but we can speak for ourselves,” the student-written letter reads. “Educational adversity … has been exacerbated by a constantly changing school structure. However, this can’t outweigh public health and the importance of community welfare; the five-day model suggested by the organization severely understates the dangers associated with fully reopening.”

The students’ letter asserts that the five-day schedule proposed by the Edina Parents 4 Progress is unsafe, not only by community standards of protecting others but by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They cite this type of schedule falling into the “higher” to “highest” risk when it comes to operating schools during COVID-19.

“Ultimately, preserving the lives of frontline workers, neighbors and family members, many of whom are in low-income households, takes precedence over a rushed school reopening,” the student letter reads.

One of the statements by Edina Parents 4 Progress also says that the board should do what is necessary to get vaccines faster. The students responded, “Perhaps the most baffling assertion is that a high school would have any authority over the COVID-19 vaccine distribution.”

The letter also takes issue with the group’s characterization of the board not prioritizing students and families. It cites board members speaking directly to viewers, with some being “choked up” over the decision for distance learning, and others showing understanding of the difficulties.

“Distance learning isn’t easy, and all students and faculty can attest to that,” the student-written letter reads. “In the middle of a global pandemic, however, community safety is paramount.”

– Follow Caitlin Anderson on Twitter @EdinaSunCurrent

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