Walz to leave decision on upcoming school year to school districts, with guidance from state officials | KSTP.com

Walz to leave decision on upcoming school year to school districts, with guidance from state officials

Updated: July 30, 2020 10:17 PM
Created: July 30, 2020 09:26 AM

Thursday, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced school districts and charter schools will be able to decide what model of instruction they want to use during upcoming school year as COVID-19 remains a concern.

"As we look to this fall, this is going to be, and I say this as someone who has had been through many first days, it's going to be a first day of school unlike any we've seen," Walz, a former school teacher, said.

The state's Safe Learning Plan will allow districts to choose from one of three models: in-person, distance learning or a hybrid model.

"Students, when we think about this decision, we're very, very clear about our goals," Walz said. "Your safety and the ability to get you into classrooms to learn and have that experience, or to make sure whatever learning model we use is the best for you and you get the most out of it."

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During the announcement, Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm laid out the state's goals for the Safe Learning Plan.

Malcolm said those goals include prioritizing the safety of students and staff, prioritizing in-person learning, recognizing differences in potential spread among different ages, supporting localized planning and taking the disease's prevalence at local levels into account.

Walz said the state departments of health and education will work with local districts to decide what model to use at the beginning of the year. The decisions will be based on the level of viral activity in the surrounding county and other factors.

Districts will continue to work with state officials to decide whether they need to switch models during the year. According to the governor, when looking to switch between models, the plan prioritizes keeping young children in the classroom.

"The virus will continue to evolve, and so will these plans," Malcolm said.

Malcolm said schools that offer in-person or hybrid learning will be required to have a preparedness plan. Those plans will include a policy for the use of masks and gloves, hygiene routines, daily cleaning and whether to limit non-essential visitors, among other things.

"With the level of viral transmission that exists in Minnesota and around the country, we know there will be cases of COVID in our schools," Malcolm said. "The key will be how well can we identify that, assess that and control that right away."

According to MDE Assistant Commissioner Heather Mueller, schools that offer in-person education will provide students and staff one cloth mask. Districts will also be provided three disposable face masks per student.

Districts and charter school will also have to give families the option to choose distance learning for their child, even if the district or charter school is using another model.

During the rollout, Minnesota Department of Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker praised the plan.

"This plan is an approach that is localized, data driven and grounded in science," she said. "It allows schools to build on their strength, receive critical health information health information they need from our experts, along with the guidance they will get from our department."

She added, "This plan prioritizes safe teaching and learning environments for all our students and staff and give our families an option to choose an equitable distance learning experience if that is what works best for them."

Click here to view the full Safe Learning Plan.

You can watch Thursday's full press conference below.

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