Shakopee Schools file photo

Shakopee High School during passing time

Shakopee students K-12 will remain in distance learning through at least Jan. 15, according to a recommendation from Shakopee Public Schools' pandemic response advisory team.

The recommendation comes after Gov. Tim Walz made a series of new announcements this week which include the ability for elementary schools to reopen for in-person instruction next month with no limits on classroom capacity.

“This date is the earliest that K-12 students in the IHD Program would return to Hybrid learning, however, a formal date has not been set,” the district posted on its website.

Walz said Wednesday that young children seem to be “less susceptible to serious complications” from COVID-19 and that the state has learned how to reduce the potential for the coronavirus to spread in schools.

The Department of Education’s new guidelines will let any elementary school in the state reopen starting Jan. 18 with either a hybrid or fully in-person instruction model.

Since the state’s initial Safe Learning Plan was released in June, school leaders have been watching weekly reports on the number of new coronavirus cases in their counties when deciding whether it’s safe to open their buildings.

Going forward, those case rates will apply only to decisions about middle and high schools. The latest report indicates secondary schools should be closed in every county in the state because of high case rates.

In order to open Jan. 18, elementary schools must follow these additional health and safety protocols:

  • School staff must wear both a mask and a face shield.
  • Students must wear masks, even during indoor recess or gym class.
  • Teachers should place an additional clear barrier between themselves and students if they’re less than six feet apart, but students don’t necessarily have to stay away from each other.
  • Students must stay in their primary classrooms or go outside to eat meals and take art and music classes.
  • Schools must offer optional, on-site coronavirus testing for staff every two weeks, with the state providing the materials.
  • Only three grade bands at a time will be allowed to return full-time on Jan. 18.

That means a school that wants to move grades K-2 to an in-person schedule will have to keep grades 3-5 at home for two weeks — even if they had been on a hybrid schedule.

However, elementary schools that already are open, or previously have announced plans to open before Jan. 18, may follow through with those plans.

Specht said families shouldn’t expect all eligible schools to open Jan. 18, partly because many staffers are out sick or on quarantine.

At least 93 Minnesotans between 5 and 19 have been treated for COVID-19 in intensive care units — including 14 elementary-age children — but none have died.

“The Pandemic Response Advisory Team will continue to monitor the situation between now and January 15 and provide further updates as warranted,” the Shakopee school district posted. “More information would be shared on a formal learning model adjustment/return to school date based upon the Team’s updates.”

Additional reporting by Josh Verges from the Pioneer Press. 

Maddie DeBilzan graduated with a journalism degree from Bethel University. She’s interned at Salon Media and the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Outside of work, she sifts through Goodwill clothing racks, listens to Ben Rector's music and goes on long runs.