Minnesota schools continue to seek guidance from the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) on how to handle an extended time of distance learning as await a decision on when those plans will be called into action. Schools leaders urged state officials Thursday to make the decision as soon as possible to give staff, parents and guardians time to prepare and plan.

MDE asks that all of the state’s public schools report data points daily by 1:30 pm using the survey tool created for COVID-19 response, related to meals served, child care provided and technology access.

Minnesota Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker continues to thank school leaders daily for their attention to providing equitable distance learning caring for the well-being of students and staff.

Key Points

  • Daily Attendance: Districts may design new systems for counting daily attendance during an extended distance learning period and are not bound by traditional class-by-class systems.
  • Teacher Licensing: PELSB is processing teacher licensure renewals online and working on waivers for new teachers.
  • Spring Activities: Schools should return any fees collected for spring co-curricular activities.

Teacher Licensing

Having enough staff to provide education to students during distance learning or a traditional school day continues to be a focus of school leaders. MDE provides this guidance:

  • PELSB continues to process online teacher licensure renewals now that the Office has closed.
  • For new teachers, PELSB in working with providers for provider by provider waiver of student teaching.
  • PELSB is working with Legislature to address that Pearson has shut down the MTLE testing sites. PELSB cannot waive the tests unilaterally.

Daily Attendance

Districts may design new systems for counting daily attendance during an extended distance learning period. They are not bound by the class-by-class systems that applied to brick and mortar schools.

  • Districts can turn attendance upside down, from an accountability system to a family wellness check in phone call.
  • Phone calls and other attendance systems can be made by anyone on staff, not necessarily the people who in brick and mortar do attendance.
  • Gently define truancy in your newly defined system.
  • School personnel are still mandatory reporters and can use attendance and other information through distance learning to continue this duty when evidence rises to the level of mandatory reporting abuse or neglect. MHS will be issuing guidelines.

MDE asks schools to send their creative plans to learning.mde@state.mn.us.

Spring Co-Curricular Activities

Schools should return any fees collected for spring co-curricular activities. Paying spring coaches is a local school district decision, MDE said Thursday. Follow MSHSL guidelines for COVID19.

Pay coaches if the district:

  • Asks them to do permitted activities in MSHSL guidelines.
  • Has individual contracts governed by a master agreement.

If districts treat coaches as casual subs, then districts do not need to pay coaches.

Updated Resources

Here are resources being provided by MDE for schools related to their COVID-19 response:

Guidance Documents:


Q and A

Here are the latest updates from Commissioner Ricker for school superintendents as of late Thursday. MDE is holding at least daily calls with school superintendents on the response to COVID-19.

With the closure of fee-based school age day care mandated by MDE guidance, we will be laying off this staff.  We would rather not.  Can this guidance be relooked at?

All before- and after-care school-age care programs provided in schools (either by the school district or charter or by a community partner) are suspended until in-person school resumes.

Tier 1 and 2 health and emergency workers are the only categories for which day care is provided.  We hear the issue.

Should we have subs in case teachers get sick with COVID-19 or any illness?

Yes, you should choose several regular casual subs and train them on you distance learning systems, attendance, software and other procedures so they can step in as needed.

The newly passed Federal COVID-19 law expands FMLA to parents who have to stay home with children when schools or daycares shut down.  Since schools offer daycare to employees, can school employees and school districts be exempted from this new federal law?

MDE and the State of Minnesota is checking into this.

We have online providers who have offered free Internet to families with FRE eligible students, but that is private data which we cannot release to identify families?

Get consent from the parents to release this information. See MDE nutrition site for the form.  Parents will most likely grant consent as they would want the service, but it is their determination.

When will the determination that distance learning will begin March 30 for an extended length of time?

We understand what you are saying, but this is a fluid situation and the Gov. and Lt Gov. and staff understand that this decision is not to be taken lightly.

 Can you review the work from home guidelines for school staff?

The executive order states that school employees are to report to work.  It also states you need to follow safety guidelines.  When these align, employees are to report to work.  When they are in conflict the safety of the employee is the most important.  This is multi-faceted decision.  The public health guidelines are to keep everyone safe.  If people are to work from home it must be an equitable decision and ensure that the work is getting done.


Stay Connected

Stay apprised of resources and news on COVID-19 for schools at: MREAvoice.org/covid19