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Governor Tim Walz announces Safe Learning Plan to allow school districts to choose learning model

FILE - In an April 30, 2020 file photo, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz answers questions while holding his mask at a news conference inside the Department of Public Safety in St. Paul, Minn. Walz said Wednesday, May 13, 2020 he will let his stay-at-home order expire as scheduled Monday, though he’ll leave key restrictions in place to keep up Minnesota’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. (Evan Frost/Minnesota Public Radio via AP, Pool, File)

Governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan, along with the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), announced Minnesota’s Safe Learning Plan for the 2020-21 School Year today.

School districts and charter schools will begin in one of three models: in-person, distance learning, or a hybrid model. Experts at the Departments of Health and Education will partner with local school districts and charter schools to help determine which learning model they should use to start the school year. The decision-making process centers on the health, safety, and wellbeing of our 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 learning model decision will be announced by the local school district.

The MDE 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, understanding that transmission is less likely for younger children and that in-person learning is particularly critical at their developmental stage.

The governor is also requiring 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.

Gov. Walz is investing over $430 million in federal funding to help schools, educators, students, and families through this uncertain time. Funding comes from the Governor’s Education Emergency Relief, Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief, and the Coronavirus Relief Fund. Walz provided $180 million through the summer to improve distance learning and fund summer learning programs. Today the Governor announced an additional $250 million of support that will:

  • Provide face coverings for every student, educator, and staff member;
  • Deploy a comprehensive COVID 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 governor has also prioritized family and community needs by mobilizing his state agencies to create strategies and flexibilities for child care and school-age care providers and protections for workers who will need to provide care for children during the school-day.

Executive Order 20-82 will have the full force and effect of law upon the approval of the Executive Council, which is made up of Governor Walz, Lt. Governor Flanagan, Attorney General Ellison, Secretary of State Simon, and State Auditor Blaha.


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