Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced today the plan for reopening the state’s K-12 public schools with a focus on localized decision-making driven by data. 

The plan outlines five scenarios, based on the number of COVID-19 cases in a county, for how schools may move between in-person, hybrid and distance learning models in response to the spread of the virus in their communities throughout the school year. View the Executive Order.

“MREA has been advocating the state does not take a one-size-fits all approach so schools could make decisions based on local data and the needs of their students and staff and the Governor’s plan provides that,” MREA Executive Director Bob Indihar said. This school year will require constant collaboration and flexibility between the state, the community and the school. Schools will most likely be using more than one learning model during the school year. 

Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said the Safe Learning Plan focuses on prioritizing the safety of students and staff while also recognizing the value of in-person learning. The plan, grounded in data, provides flexibility and support for schools, she said.

The Minnesota Department of Health has been tracking COVID-19 cases in youth. On Wednesday, health officials reported that there has been over 6,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in youth ages 6-19 and that the cases tend not to be severe. 

Determining Learning Model by School

Educators, administrators and parents are accustomed to thinking of an entire school year, but this year will be different to ensure schools can respond to the changing pandemic situation.  

The Minnesota Department of Education provided this framework for determining which of the three learning models to use for the 2020-21 school year. Public schools, in consultation with public health, will determine a learning model to begin the school year and communicate that decision with their school community. 

Cases in county per 10,000 for 14 days

Learning Model Recommendations

0-9 In-person learning for all students
10-19 In-person learning for elementary students
Hybrid learning for middle and high school students
20-29 Hybrid learning for all students
30-49 Hybrid learning for elementary students
Distance learning for secondary students
50+ Distance learning for all students


The Minnesota Department of Health will provide data for a designated 14-day block for school districts to use to determine the appropriate learning model. Schools that operate in multiple counties will need to make decisions based on the county with the highest number of cases. This data focuses on trends and serves as a starting point. View the bi-weekly case rates by county.

A school can choose to scale down to a more restrictive learning model at than what is required by the Safe Learning Model Guidance, but must notify the education commissioner. A school can choose to scale up to a less restrictive learning model than what is required under the Safe Learning Model Guidance must consult with local public health officials, MDH and MDE. Districts will ultimately make the final decision. 

Just based on current COVID-19 cases, the majority of schools would fall into the first two scenarios with either full in-person learning or in-person learning for elementary students and hybrid learning for middle and high school students.

In addition to COVID-19 cases, school also will need to take in account health requirements, facility capacity and available staffing when determining which learning model they will use for a period of time.

There also will be flexibility in this model that allows schools and communities to consider local context and account for contained cases in places such as nursing homes and other circumstances that would not require a change to the learning model.

Public schools and MDH will monitor the community and school-level impact of COVID-19 on a regular basis. Adjustments will be made to the learning model as needed. Schools are expected to communicate the learning model their students and their families at least a week in advance.

View the full Safe Learning Plan.

Models Defined 

In person learning for all students

In this scenario, schools provide as much space between students and teachers as possible during the day. However, schools will not need to strictly enforce 6 feet of social distancing during primary instructional time in the classroom or on buses.

Hybrid learning with strict social distancing and capacity limits

Schools will limit the overall number of people in school facilities and on transportation vehicles to 50% maximum occupancy. Sufficient social distancing with at least 6 feet between people must occur at all times. If distancing cannot be achieved in a space or on a transportation vehicle, the number of occupants must be reduced. Schools must also include plans for contactless pick-up and/or delivery of meals and school materials for days that students and staff are not in the school building, as well as implementation of a school-age care for critical workers.

Distance learning only

This may be implemented if local, regional, or statewide COVID-19 metrics worsen significantly enough to require the suspension of in-person learning. Schools may be open to provide emergency child care, meals and/or other functions. 

Schools must offer an equitable distance learning option to all families who choose not to attend in-person learning due to medical risks or any other safety concerns. Families are not required to provide documentation of risks. See the guide for families on what to expect. 

Health Requirements 

Minnesota identified a series of health practices that schools will need to follow in the next academic year, including: 

  • Social distancing of 6 feet (as much as possible for full in-person, REQUIRED for hybrid model) 
  • All students and staff wear face coverings (A supply will be provided by the state to each school for staff and students.). Schools are required to enforce this. 
  • Use cohorts to the extent possible 
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for all direct support student services 
  • Build routines of hygiene education and practices 
  • Daily and frequent cleaning of high touch services throughout the day 
  • Building level COVID-19 coordinator (with optional student counterpart) 
  • Daily health monitoring and adherence to exclusion policy 
  • Make ventilation system improvements as able
  • Limiting visitors
  • Discontinuing large gatherings

Most extracurricular activities could be held during the in-person model, provided they follow current public health guidance. They would be modified during hybrid learning and discontinued during distance learning.

View all MDH Guidance for Schools

Support for Schools

In addition to the planning framework, Minnesota officials announced other supports for schools, including:

  • Regional Support Teams — comprised of MDH, MDE, educational service cooperatives, and county heath officials — to support school districts through the school year
  • A face mask for every student, educator and staff member in K-12 schools. Plus, face shields for all licensed teachers and 50% of non-licensed staff as well as three disposable masks for each student.
  • COVID-19 testing care plan for educators and staff, including MDH prioritizing testing for educators and school staff by health providers exposed to COVID-19. 
  • $250 million in new funding for schools through the Coronavirus Relief Fund to support operations and support for students, families and staff. This brings the total investment to $430 million with GEER and ESSER funds. Learn more.


Executive Order on Reopening K-12 Schools

Executive Order on Masks

Safe Learning Plan Website

Full School Guidance on Safe Learning Plan

MDH Guidance for Schools

Guide for families on What to Expect