Reopening schools

Until a COVID-19 vaccine is developed, school districts across Minnesota are going to need support in charting a path to safely and responsibly reopen buildings and transportation to students and staff.

Several education and health organizations have developed plans and guidelines around reopening our schools.


The American Federation of Teachers released a detailed, science-based document titled “Plan to Safely Reopen America’s Schools and Communities,” which features five core pillars based on the science as well as educator and healthcare expertise—not on politics or wishful thinking.

To gradually reopen, the document states districts need to: 

  1. Maintain physical distancing until the number of new cases declines for at least 14 consecutive days. Reducing the number of new cases is a prerequisite for transitioning to reopening plans on a community-by-community basis. 
  2. Put in place the infrastructure and resources to test, trace and isolate new cases. Transitioning from community-focused physical distancing and stay-in-place orders to case-specific interventions requires ramping up the capacity to test, trace and isolate each new case.
  3. Deploy the public health tools that prevent the virus’ spread and align them with education strategies that meet the needs of students.
  4. Involve workers, unions, parents and communities in all planning. Each workplace and community faces unique challenges related to COVID-19. To ensure that reopening plans address those challenges, broad worker and community involvement is necessary. They must be engaged, educated and empowered.
  5. Invest in recovery: Do not abandon America’s communities or forfeit America’s future. These interventions will require more—not less—investment in public health and in our schools, universities, hospitals, and local and state governments. Strengthening communities should be a priority in the recovery.

AFT has also developed workplace checklists for reopening in partnership with the National Institutes for Health.


The National Education Association has created a guide to intentionally planning for school success during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

All Hands on Deck: Initial Guidance Regarding Reopening School Buildings is rooted in the following four basic principles:

  • Health Expertise: Health and safety of all as advised by science is fundamental. 
  • Educator Voice: Educators’ voices and expertise are front and center as part of decision-making and implementation. 
  • Access to Protection: Educators and students need consistently funded access to personal protective equipment (PPE) and the ability to disinfect surfaces regularly. 
  • Leading with Equity: Achieving racial and social justice is imperative and not an expendable aspiration.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The CDC has prepared a variety of resources to aid in decisions to reopen schools, child care facilities and summer programs, as well as resources to help once those buildings are open.

Minnesota Department of Education

In mid-June, MDE released its latest guidance about reopening schools this fall. The department expects a final decision by the Minnesota Department of Health by the week of July 27.

Minnesota Department of Health

MDH has also released guidance on planning for the 2020-21 school year, and will issue a final decision on reopening by the week of July 27. The department has also created a webpage detailing social distance guidelines, cleaning recommendations and more for child care centers, higher education institutions, youth programs and more.

Other resources