Challenges remain for the last few Minnesota districts to offer in-person learning

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ST. PAUL, Minnesota. Feb. 17, 2021 – Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan on Wednesday encouraged the remaining Minnesota school districts that don’t currently offer in-person learning, or don’t have plans to do so soon, to create a safe learning plan and open their doors to E-12 students by March 8. 

“Educators, and nearly everyone else, agree Minnesota students should have the opportunity to learn safely and in person with their peers,” said Denise Specht, president of Education Minnesota. “Many districts already offer in-person learning and many more districts have plans in place to do so in the next few weeks. There’s been a tremendous amount of hard work and negotiations by parents, administrators and educators to get to this point. For them, not much will change after today’s announcement.” 

According to the latest data from the state, 86 percent of traditional public school districts and charters schools are offering their students some form of in-person learning. While 84 percent of districts and charters offer an in-person option to elementary age students, two-thirds those districts and charters are also offering an in-person option to middle and high school students. 

Specht noted that many of the remaining school districts would struggle to meet the high standards for safe operation outlined in guidance released Feb. 12 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention without additional resources and staff. 

“Every school district in Minnesota is unique and so are the families of our students,” Specht said. “Regardless of today’s announcement, there will still be educators who need the vaccine before they can safely return to their buildings because of local conditions. There will also be families that won’t be comfortable returning to in-person learning next month. Meeting the needs of everyone won’t be easy and the solutions will look different everywhere.” 

Specht also cautioned that the pandemic wasn’t over even though the rates of infection and hospitalization were declining. 

“Minnesotans must remain vigilant about controlling the spread of the coronavirus until far more educators are vaccinated,” she said. “No one wants the new variants to take off in Minnesota and force school buildings to close again.” 

Specht noted the latest weekly report from the Minnesota Department of Health indicates that since the pandemic began, there have been 13,515 COVID-19 infections associated with school staff and students working in or attending E-12 schools in Minnesota.  

About Education Minnesota
Education Minnesota is the voice for professional educators and students. Education Minnesota’s members include teachers and education support professionals in Minnesota’s public school districts, faculty members at Minnesota’s community and technical colleges and University of Minnesota campuses in Duluth and Crookston, retired educators and student teachers. Education Minnesota is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and AFL-CIO.

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