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MN School Districts to Use COVID-19 Data to Decide on Reopening Plans

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Each school district in Minnesota will decide on reopening plans based on localized COVID-19 data. (Adobe stock)
Each school district in Minnesota will decide on reopening plans based on localized COVID-19 data. (Adobe stock)
July 31, 2020

ST. PAUL, Minn. - School districts in Minnesota will reopen this fall either in person, with distance learning or a hybrid of the two.

The plan announced yesterday by Gov. Tim Walz calls for school districts to decide how they'll reopen based on their local COVID-19 conditions. State officials will provide data guidance during the school year to help superintendents decide if they need to alter their plans.

Walz is a former Mankato public school teacher who said he understands that parents and teachers are nervous about going into school buildings during the pandemic. But he said he thinks his strategy is the best approach because it takes into account the health status of teachers along with data.

"This is a localized, data-driven approach to making sure that school districts, where it is physically possible to teach our students, we will do that," said Walz. "Where we use the data to drive that decision making, but understanding that county-level health data has to be coupled with what the physical plant looks like in that building."

He said the state will fund masks for all school staff and students. It also will provide testing for teachers and staff, including for private schools, which are not bound by the state's guidance.

At the announcement, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan pointed out that many parents are juggling health concerns with education needs.

But she said research shows that students learn best in the classroom. And this is especially true for students from underserved communities, including black and indigenous students and students without access to broadband.

"That's why we're working in partnership with our departments of Health and Education to set the guidance for how much a school can reopen," said Flanagan. "The Safe Learning Plan is thoughtful, nuanced; it's an approach that allows us to take into account those competing concerns along with regional differences."

The new plan also gives each Minnesota family the option to keep their children learning from a distance if they're not comfortable or able to send their child back to school in person this fall.

Diane Bernard, Public News Service - MN