Safe Learning Plan announced for 2020-21 school year

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 on July 30.

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.

“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,” said Governor Walz. “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 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, 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.

“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,” said Lt. Governor Flanagan.

Governor Walz is investing over $430 million in federal funding to help schools, educators, students and families through this uncertain time.

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.

For more information on Minnesota’s Safe Learning Plan for the 2020-21 School Year, visit or see guidance from the Minnesota Department of Education.

The initial reaction from our local school superintendents was that they are still processing all the new information.

“Still digesting...will know more next week,” said Bertha-Hewitt Superintendent Eric Koep.

“The devil will be in the details. Great news though. Looking forward to meeting with Todd County and our neighboring districts to get our kids back into our buildings. We fully plan on bringing everyone back!” said Browerville Superintendent Scott Vedbraaten.

“This is a lot of information to digest. Our reopening committee groups have been busy developing various plans, but it will take a great deal of time to develop the minute details that were included with the announcement. This is going to be a monumental task for students, families, teachers, support staff, cooks, custodians, bus drivers, school boards, community members and administrators. Wow! We will also have more information to share over the next few weeks because the metrics we have today could be different in four weeks. If they are significantly different, we could have a different plan to follow,” said Verndale Superintendent Paul Brownlow.

All our local school districts will share more information as it becomes available.

Will there be fall sports? State high school league will release plan on Aug. 4

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz’s announcement on July 30 of Executive Order 20-82 provides Minnesota schools direction for how they will return to learning for the 2020-2021 school year.

With that direction, the Minnesota State High School League’s Return to Participation Task Force will continue its work in developing programming options for the 2020-2021 school year to present to the League’s Board of Directors for final consideration and approval.

The task force, authorized by the Board of Directors at its meeting on July 14, consists of activities administrators from throughout Minnesota and is assisted by League staff. This group will present options for return to participation for member schools’ implementation of co-curricular activities on Tuesday, Aug. 4 during the board’s next scheduled meeting.

Their work has used the following Guiding Principles in exploring options in a return to participation:

Prioritize the health and safety for all to the greatest extent possible,

Align return to participation options with the requirements and recommendations of state organizations and agencies focused on safety and return to learn models,

Provide an opportunity for education-based participation in each sport and activity,

Demonstrate equity and fairness in preparation of programming options,

Acknowledge financial implications, 

Apply guidelines consistently.

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