Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced Sunday morning the closing of schools for students statewide to allow school staff to focus on planning for the spread of COVID-19. View the executive order.
Schools need to close for students by Wednesday, as school staff develop plans for extended distance learning. The Minnesota Department of Education asked schools to prepare for delivering distance learning for up to seven weeks. This is a precautionary measure should the schools need to close. MDE issued new guidelines on planning. View guidelines.
“My top priority as governor is the safety of Minnesotans. As a former teacher, and father of two teenage kids, I’m especially focused on the safety of our children,” Walz said. “Closing schools is never an easy decision, but we need to make sure we have plans in place to educate and feed our kids regardless of what’s to come.”
The plan is to resume school on March 30. This is an evolving situation and plans will adjust with time. View governor’s announcement and executive order.
This means schools will be closed for students at least from March 18 through March 27. This comes as the number of positive cases in Minnesota increased from 14 on Friday to 35 on Sunday morning. The closure in Minnesota is among a growing group of statewide school closures nationwide, including Wisconsin’s recent decision.
Minnesota Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker noted this is different than planning for a few snow days. “We are planning for the potential of weeks of distance learning delivery,” she said.
This planning is unprecedented in Minnesota – and nationally. “There is no problem that our education staff cannot solve, Ricker said.
“Educators are caring, creative people and I am confident they are going to work to meet the needs of our students in these extraordinary times.”
Impact on Workers
Commissioner Ricker stated that schools need to provide child care for elementary children of health care professionals, first responders and emergency workers. Schools can ask for verification with letters from employers or employment badges. Child care centers, including school-based child care centers and daycares, can remain open.
Minnesota Employment & Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove urged employers to seek to protect employees and offer flexibility.
“We recognize that the decision we made today has a magnitude of an effect,” Walz said, noting that the state sought to make this decision with key stakeholders at the table.
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
Schools are directed to continue to pay their hourly workers (ie: paraprofessionals, bus drivers, nutrition workers) and incorporate these staff members into their distance learning plans.
MREA developed a series of guides to help schools respond and plan for the spread of COVID-19:
Stay apprised of resources and news on COVID-19 for schools at: MREAvoice.org/covid19