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MN School Buildings Closed for School Year; Distance Learning Continues

Minnesota's nearly 900,000 K-12 students have gotten their schooling mostly online since late March. (Adobe Stock)
Minnesota's nearly 900,000 K-12 students have gotten their schooling mostly online since late March. (Adobe Stock)
April 24, 2020

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- For the rest of the school year, Minnesota students will have to learn remotely from their homes, as Gov. Tim Walz has extended school closures in response to the pandemic.

Calling it a "heartbreaking" decision, Walz -- a former teacher -- says classrooms will not reopen at any point for the last month-and-a-half of the academic year. In his announcement, the governor acknowledged how tough this news will be for the class of 2020.

"You will not be defined by staying home and missing proms, and missing graduations," says Walz. "You will be defined by understanding how interconnected the world is, and what it means to come together and try to solve hard problems."

Walz, along with the state's education commissioner, also noted how distance learning has pushed education inequalities even further into the spotlight in Minnesota. They say they will continue to examine the reasons some students are at a bigger disadvantage trying to learn from home.

In a statement, the state's largest teacher's union said it supports Walz's decision, and agrees that closing schools is widening learning disparities by income levels, race and geography.

Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker says going beyond addressing the distance-learning gaps, the state is looking at how some students will need to catch up in the future.

"It is an entire school-year-long expectation that we will have to continue to come back to meeting the needs of our students," says Ricker. "And making sure that what got on the cutting room floor this spring, perhaps, gets woven into what next fall looks like, and perhaps even the fall after that."

The announcement came on the same day Minnesota recorded its 200th new coronavirus death.

The governor also said as many as 100,000 non-essential workers in certain industries could return to their job sites as early as Monday, provided they have enough safeguards in place. Those industries include industrial, manufacturing, and office settings.

Mike Moen, Public News Service - MN