The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) gave additional guidance for what school could look like in the fall.
The guidance recommended school districts plan for three possible scenarios: in-person learning for all students; hybrid learning with social distance and capacity limits; or distance learning only.
In-person learning would require schools to space out students and teachers as feasible. In a hybrid model, schools would limit facilities and transportation to half capacity.
School districts may enact social distance learning if COVID-19 cases and deaths increase.
A COVID-19 outbreak could cause different schools to operate in a hybrid or distance learning model, Minnesota Department of Education Deputy Commissioner Heather Mueller told reporters on a conference call Thursday.
MDE will announce further decisions by July 27, 2020.
Infectious Disease Division Director Kris Ehresmann said the delayed decision aimed to harness the most updated COVID-19 data.
“If we made a decision a month ago, it might have looked very different than a decision that we have made now, based on changes in the data,” Ehresmann said.
“As we look ahead to the next school year, the health and safety of our students will continue to be our number one priority,” Mueller said in a statement.
“This spring brought about unprecedented changes to our society and our education system, and moving forward we must do everything we can to meet the needs of each and every student. The proactive planning that our school districts and charter schools will do this summer will ensure that our school communities are prepared for whatever this school year brings,” Mueller said.
“We are learning more about COVID-19 every day, but we still can’t be sure about exactly how the pandemic will play out over the coming months,” Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm said in a statement.
“Until a vaccine is developed COVID-19 is likely to remain a serious concern, and we must be prepared for a variety of scenarios. We appreciate the partnership of the Minnesota Department of Education and the state’s school systems as we prepare for the start of school this fall.”
MDE asked school leaders to plan for all three scenarios.
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka criticized the decision, calling it a “non-announcement.”
“This direction is as clear as mud, and the inability to make a decision will hamper learning for students in the fall,” Gazelka said in a statement.
He called for Gov. Tim Walz to end his emergency powers and give more freedom to schools, citing fewer recent COVID-19 cases and deaths.
“The one-man rule over our state has got to end,” Gazelka said. “Governor Walz should allow each district and school to make the decision that is best for them, just like the colleges and universities have done.
“The Governor can’t possibly make the best decision for every parent and child, and this announcement today is more evidence of that. Let the schools and the parents decide what’s best for their students.”
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Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.