Minnesota Governor Tim Walz announced Thursday (April 23) afternoon that students will remain at home for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year.
Distance learning, now in its fourth week, will resume for six-plus more weeks into summer break.
"As a former teacher, this is a heartbreaking decision," Walz said. "To the Class of 2020, you will not be defined by staying home and missing proms and graduations. This is a rite of passage. Feels like it has been taken from you, and it has. You will not be defined by missing celebrations. You will be defined by how you were molded in crisis."
Walz said it is not a perfect solution. He understands the challenges students, families and teachers face with distance learning.
"Yesterday we lost 21 Minnesotans to this virus, each one heartbreaking and deeply felt by the Minnesota community. We must continue to #StayHomeMN," Walz said. "Minnesotans have done what has been asked of them better than any place in America."
Included in his objectives for moving forward are gradually allowing more Minnesotans to go back to work as well as safely and slowly allowing in-person contact in settings that serve people's well-being.
Walz said we need to keep people "safe, healthy, and happy as best as we can."
From Day One, he has seen this process as a marathon. Safely adjusting the dials is the way Walz and staff measure what steps to take to open the state back up.
The dial has been moved up for manufacturing, office and industrial operations.
A new executive order from Walz allows non-critical businesses in those sectors to return to work, if they can put certain safety protocols in place. Walz estimates it will return 80,000-100,000 people back to their jobs as soon as Monday, April 27.
As far as social settings, Walz compared it to an end of the marathon. "This one is the hardest."
The stay-at-home order remains in place until May. 4. A decision will be made on extending or not extending based on the data they're receiving as they approach that date.
MORE DISTANCE LEARNING
At the April 20 school board meeting, Eastern Carver County Schools directors discussed what the rest of the academic school year may look like if what was expected happened.
Now that Walz has closed schools, District 112 officials want students and families to know they have been preparing for this.
"We know that grading and assessment has been an ongoing source of concern for parents and students alike. Please visit the new grading page on our distance learning site for more information about what that will look like for the remainder of the year," Superintendent Clint Christopher said in a release.
"There are also some calendar changes to allow our teachers and staff additional planning time so they have the resources they need to ensure they are supporting students in their learning," he added.
Per the governor’s order, Friday, May 1 and Monday, May 4 are designated planning days for districts. These are non-school days for students.
Starting Friday, May 8, and continuing May 15, May 22, and May 29, Fridays will look different.
At the elementary level, students will have a regular school day in the morning and teachers will not be available after 11 a.m.
At the middle and high school level, students will have WIN time in the morning and teachers will not be available after 11 a.m. Friday afternoons will be a time reserved for teachers to connect with colleagues and have designated time to plan for the week ahead.
Additionally, given planning time added to the calendar, there will be no late start on Thursday, May 14. Daily work will be delivered to students at the usual time.
June 2 is the last day for elementary students, while June 4 is the last day for middle and high school students.
"I know this has been an incredibly challenging time for your family and everyone in our community. This is not how any of us planned for our school year together to end. What I have seen over the last several weeks is a community that cares deeply for each other, and I urge you to continue to demonstrate all the ways you are #ECCSStrong," Christopher said. "As we move forward with distance learning, know that we are working hard to improve the process and identify more ways to engage our students and connect them with each other, and their teachers, even if it has to be through a screen."
In the days ahead, the district will be communicating plans for graduation and other important events. School will also notify students and families about how to pick up items that still remain in buildings and return materials and resources.
"Our learning continues. Meals will continue to be provided for families in need. We will still support each other, in ways big and small. This community of students, families, teachers, and staff is remarkably resilient. I am grateful for each and every one of you. Hang in there," Christopher said. "Stay safe, stay healthy, stay home, and keep smiling. We’ve got this."