Gov. Tim Walz issued an executive order today for distance learning to begin March 30 and continue through April 30 for the state’s K-12 public schools.
This month-long period of distance learning also comes as the governor calls Minnesotans to stay at home and limit movements for the next two weeks.
Schools are asked for all staff to be given tasks in this inside-out distance learning model. Schools also will need to continue to provide meals to students in need and child care for children of essential workers.
“The purpose of the Distance Learning Period is to provide continuity of education during the COVID-19 pandemic while also preserving the health, safety, and lives of Minnesota’s students, educators, and the broader public,” Walz said in the Executive Order. View Executive Order on Distance Learning
Minnesota legislators will reconvene on Thursday to act on COVID-19 relief. The House will meet at noon and the Senate will gather at 2 pm.
The executive orders announced today include the following:
- Minnesotans stay at home and limit movements for two weeks, beginning at 11:59 pm on March 27.
- Distance learning implemented March 30-April 30.
- Bars and restaurants remain closed through May 1.
Time to Respond
Gov. Walz provided a clear presentation of two scenarios that the Minnesota Department of Health and University of Minnesota have modeled using both Minnesota specific data and global data on the COVID-19 pandemic.
The two-week stay at home period is aimed at buying the state time to ready the healthcare system to respond to COVID-19 infections.
- With no mitigation, time to peak epidemic would be 9 weeks
- With significant, smart mitigation, the time to peak epidemic would be 14 weeks
For the past week, Minnesota’s K-12 schools have been in a statewide planning period to prepare for distance learning. That planning period was set to end Friday. Gov. Walz closed schools for students when he issued this initial executive order for planning on March 15.
Distance learning is not the same as e-learning. The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) defines distance learning as students engaging in distance learning have access to appropriate educational materials and receive daily interaction with their licensed teacher(s).
- Daily student interaction with licensed teacher(s)
- Appropriate education materials provided
“We continue to recognize that schools are community hubs for children and families,” Walz said in his Executive Order today. “…I greatly value the efforts of school staff to make sure that our students receive meals on a daily basis and to provide other services such as physical and mental health care supports virtually where possible.”
The current plan is for school staff to return May 1 and May 4 to prepare for students to return on May 5, based on this executive order. That will be evaluated in the weeks ahead and is subject to change.
Key elements of the Executive Order on Distance Learning:
- Public school buildings and facilities must be closed for typical in-school instruction.
- All public schools must provide continuous education based on the distance learning plans developed during the current closure period.
- School districts and schools must allow for remote work or telework to the extent possible.
- Consistent with applicable labor agreements, districts must use available staff who are able to work during the Distance Learning Period. Districts must also provide employee accommodations as required by law.
- Schools are expected to provide meals to their students. MDE will provide additional guidance to schools and school districts about this provision.
- Schools are directed to provide care, at a minimum, to district-enrolled students (aged 12 and under) of parents of essential workers.
- Because there will be extremely limited assessment results, the Commissioner of Education should explore alternative federal reporting options.
The Minnesota Department of Education also issued implementation guidance following the governor’s announcement. View implementation guidance
- 20-18: Bars & Restaurants
- 20-19: Distance Learning
- 20-20: Stay at Home
- View all of the governor’s executive orders.
MREA developed a series of guides to help schools respond and plan for the spread of COVID-19:
- Distance Learning: Guide to Communicating with Families
- Distance Learning: Putting It All Together
- Steps to Respond & Communicate
- How to Plan for Distance Learning
Stay apprised of resources and news on COVID-19 for schools at: MREAvoice.org/covid19