Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced July 30 a “localized, data-driven” approach to the reopening of school districts.
Districts will have the option to offer in-person learning, distance learning and a combination of both depending on the rates of new COVID-19 cases in each county. The state is offering $250 million to aid school districts across Minnesota to cover coronavirus-related expenses.
“We know how important this decision is,” Walz said. “We know how included you as parents must be in this… to take care of your children and do what’s best for them.”
The state’s recommendations will also vary among age groups, since elementary school students are less likely to spread the virus, while secondary-aged children are more likely to spread it.
Here are the recommended guidelines from the state, which is a framework, not an order, for districts, and is based on new COVID-19 cases in each county per 10,000 residents.
- 0 to 9 new cases per 10,000: in-person learning for all students.
- 10 to 19 new cases per 10,000: in-person learning for elementary, hybrid for secondary.
- 20 to 29 new cases per 10,000: hybrid learning for all students.
- 20 to 39 new cases per 10,000: hybrid learning for elementary, distance for secondary.
- 40 to 49 new cases per 10,000: distance learning for all age levels.
Because Carver County currently has about 20 new COVID-19 cases per 10,000 residents, and Scott County has 21, its school districts would fall under the state's recommendation for hybrid learning for all students.
Local officials will make the decision for each district, but they all must offer a distance-style learning option for children with underlying health conditions or families who don’t feel ready to send their children back to school.
“I’m not kidding you, this is going to be really hard, just like distance learning was really hard,” Walz said.
If each school district followed the guidelines provided by the state, here is what the breakdown would look like, based on current COVID-19 cases:
- 181 districts would practice in-person learning.
- 130 districts would practice in-person learning for elementary schools and hybrid learning for secondary schools.
- 107 districts would practice hybrid learning for both elementary and secondary schools.
- Seven districts would practice hybrid learning for elementary schools and distance learning for secondary schools.
- Nine districts would practice distance learning for both elementary and secondary schools.
All students and staff will be required to wear masks in school buildings. Each K-12 student in the state will receive a cloth mask, and all teachers will receive face shields so students can read their lips and see facial expressions in districts where in-person learning is possible.
The state's guidelines do not apply to preschools or private schools.
Additional funding will be made available to help districts cover the extra costs incurred from the additional operational and miscellaneous costs incurred because of COVID-19 restrictions, according to the state’s announcement.
School districts are expected to let their communities know their final plans at least one week before they start their learning model.
Correction: A previous version of this article mentioned an outdated rate of COVID-19 infections in Scott and Carver Counties. It has since been updated.