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Governor Tim Walz announced today that local school districts were going to work with the state health department to create a safe return to school plan.

“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,” Governor Walz said. “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.”

The State Health Department will work with public and charter schools to help the schools make the decision if they should use the in-person model, hybrid, or distance learning. The decision-making process centers on the health, safety, and wellbeing of students, staff, and families by using the level of viral activity in the surrounding county and other factors such as the district's ability to meet mitigation requirements. The local school district will announce the learning model decision.

The Governor will also require public and charter school districts to give the family the option to choose distance learning for their student no matter which learning model their school districts decides on. The Governor will also require school districts to allow teachers and school employees to work remotely to the extent possible.

“We know that families, teachers, and students are juggling competing concerns as we approach ‘back to school’ this fall,” Lt. Governor Flanagan said. “While some are eager to be back in the classroom, others have very real concerns about health and safety. That’s why the Safe Learning Plan sets the guidelines for how safely a school can reopen, based on regional data and the expertise of public health leaders and local administrators, while still allowing families, teachers, and staff to make the decision to stay home.”

The Departments of Education and Health will work with school districts and local health professionals 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. When switching between learning models, the plan prioritizes keeping younger children in the classroom.

“The health and safety of our students, educators, school staff, and families are our number one priority,” 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.”

The state will invest over $430 million in federal funding to help schools, educators, students, and families. The funding comes from the Governor’s Education Emergency Relief, Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief, and the Coronavirus Relief Fund.

In March, Gov. Walz made the decision to close down schools statewide to allow educators two weeks to plan for distance learning, which eventually went into effect throughout the rest of the school year. This summer, districts worked on creating plans for three different models including, in-person, hybrid, and distance learning.