Gov. Walz Announces ‘Safe Learning Plan’ For Minnesota Schools

TWIN CITIES, MN — Gov. Tim Walz and other state officials Thursday announced Minnesota’s “Safe Learning Plan” for the 2020-21 school year. This fall, under Walz’s plan, Minnesota school districts and charter schools will have the option to begin in one of three models: in-person, distance learning, or a hybrid model.

With the guidance of state health officials, the learning model decision will be primarily left to each individual local school district in the state. Each district is expected to announce its decision to students, parents, and guardians.

However, there will be state-issued parameters for districts that indicate when schools must dial back to a more restrictive instructional model if COVID-19 cases are too high.

All schools that do open must follow public health guidelines on masks, social distancing, personal hygiene, screening, and cleaning practices.

“As a classroom teacher for more than 20 years and a parent of a child in public schools, I am committed to providing a world-class education to our students while keeping them and their teachers safe,” Walz stated Thursday.

“With this approach, we are pairing the knowledge and data from our Departments of Health and Education with the expertise of our local school districts to make the best decisions for our students across the state.”

Minnesota’s departments of education and health will work with school districts throughout the school year to help districts decide if and when they need to dial between learning models depending on the progression and cause of the virus in their specific community.

Walz’s plan prioritizes keeping younger children in the classroom because transmission is less likely for younger children and that in-person learning is particularly critical at their developmental stage, according to a news release.

Walz’s plan also requires school districts and charter schools to give families the option to choose distance learning for their student, no matter which learning model their school district is implementing. Additionally, the governor is requiring school districts to allow teachers and school employees to work remotely to the extent possible.

On Thursday, the governor announced $250 million in funding support that will:

  • Provide face coverings for every student, educator, and staff member

  • Deploy a COVID-19 testing plan for educators and staff members

  • Help cover operational costs, like cleaning supplies, transportation, technology needs, and Wi-Fi access

  • Boost student, family, and educator support, like digital navigation trainings, tutors, translation services, mental health support, and professional development.

“The health and safety of our students, educators, school staff, and families are our number one priority,” Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker said.

“This localized approach that is centered on the data and informed by a school’s ability to follow all the public health requirements, will help school districts and charter schools navigate this uncertain school year. MDE and MDH will be there supporting our schools every step of the way to help them make decisions that will prioritize the health and well-being of their school communities.”

On March 15, Walz issued Executive Order 20-02, directing the Commissioner of Education to prepare to transition all Minnesota public schools to a distance learning model that continued for the rest of the 2019-20 school year.

In June, Minnesota public schools started developing contingency plans for the 2020-21 school year, based on guidance from the Minnesota Department of Education and public health guidelines from the Minnesota Department of Health, which they will implement this fall.

Read Walz’s “Safe Learning Plan” below:

This article originally appeared on the Minneapolis Patch

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