MOORHEAD — A judge sided with a union representing Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton Public Schools staff Tuesday, May 4, to enforce an executive order issued by Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz during the coronavirus pandemic to allow teachers 30 minutes of extra preparation time.
The school district was sued by Beth Tollefson, president of the trade union Education Minnesota Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton, who claimed that since students began going back to classes in-person, kindergarten through 8th grade teachers were juggling in-person and distance instructional models, adding to their workload.
Additionally, teachers no longer had access to extra preparation time they needed, according to April 15 testimony from Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton teachers.
Tuesday's court order calls for K-8 teachers in the district to receive the additional preparation time as ordered by Walz for the rest of this school year.
“It is a remedy based in equity,” Clay County District Judge Jade Rosenfeldt said in her legal findings. “These teachers have been working without an additional 30 minutes of preparation time that they are entitled to under the law. They are indeed teaching students in both distance learning and hybrid learning models.”
The extra preparation time did not become an issue until March 15, after Superintendent Bryan Thygeson notified staff that the 30 minutes would be revoked when the district returned to an in-person instructional model, according to court documents.
On April 15, Rosenfeldt heard from both sides of the case, including testimony from teachers who said they were working extra hours to keep up.
Thygeson stressed during testimony that the district was following Minnesota Department of Education guidance and that teachers were already given more than 30 minutes of preparation time. He testified that the district had teachers dedicated solely to teach students who chose to remain online in distance learning models.
After Tuesday's ruling, Thygeson said the district will be figuring out how to comply as soon as possible.
“I think this is a good example of how as school districts we take our guidance from the Department of Education. This is one of those examples where there isn’t an agreement in the rule making aspect between guidance from the Department of Education and executive orders,” Thygeson said.
Tollefson was pleased with the judge’s decision, and hopes that the extra preparation time for teachers will be implemented quickly. “Walz’s order was a terrific thing to offer, because it has been difficult. We all have different ways of delivering our lessons and having that extra 30 minutes was always great,” Tollefson said.
Mari Dailey, a DGF middle school teacher, said she’s pleased with the outcome of the case, but wishes that teachers could be compensated for the extra hours. Along with more time at work, teachers have faced health risks during the pandemic.
“The pressures have increased on teachers, but nothing else has,” said Dailey, who's close to retiring after 27 years of teaching. “I have loved every minute of it, but I am just burned out. On empty."