Minnesota school leaders continue desire details during a fluid planning time when they have been asked to determine how they would serve their community during an extended distance learning period. It is clear that the state vision for distance learning is not the same as providing e-learning.

The state’s public PreK-12 schools provide essential services, including nutrition and child care services, and it is the state’s expectation that Minnesota shows its leadership and commitment to quality education during this time.

Gov. Tim Walz and the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) are calling on schools to determine how they can deliver a fair and equitable education to all students with no in-person contact. They’re asking them to be creative and willing to work with some ambiguity. Schools are expected to have their plans ready and online by March 27, as the executive-ordered planning period ends.

The focus will be on learning, without the pressure of federal standardized testing. The U.S. Department of Education announced Friday it will allow waivers for the 2019-2020 school year and MDE shared it will be applying to give schools relief from this requirement. Learn more.

MDE also said Friday that more information will be coming regarding the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) with guidance on handling QComp.

Minnesota Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker, together with Deputy Commissioner Heather Mueller, responded Friday to questions related to child care, special education and testing.


Can schools offer day care during the school day for children of parents who are not in Tier 1 and 2?

No, only Tier 1 and 2 during the school day.  You can offer before and after school hours care as have in the past.

What if I have more needs for child care due to my location than I have child care staff to provide? I have asked other hourly and professional staff to volunteer and have no takers.

Prioritize your Tier 1 list and reach out to neighboring districts for help in either sending employees or taking Tier 2 children.

Will SPED paraprofessionals who are paid with SPED fund generate SPED revenue after beginning March 30 if they are not working with SPED children?

SPED paras are generating aid through March 27, regardless of assignment. We do not have the ability to generate revenue starting March 30 if SPED paras do not work with SPED students.  Try to line up your duties as closely as possible to serving SPED students.

We are a QComp school and our plan is based on MCA score improvement.  What do we do with no MCA’s?

More information and guidance will be forthcoming.

How do we respond to staff who say they have someone with compromised health condition in their household or the pandemic leaves them too anxious to work?

If they have a compromised household member, assign them work from home.  For instance an hourly employee can call and make appointment phone calls for your counselor. The evidence of work are the appointment.  Anxiety is a medical condition and can be disabling.  [from an earlier Q/A districts can see medical verification for self-identified disabling or at-risk medical conditions)

What do students need in distance learning?

Great question.  Students need sincere connections with their teachers and other adults that meet their academic and social-emotional needs in a welcoming environment.  That is just as true in Distance Learning.

What routines which worked in brick and mortar that can be transferred to Distance Learning should be transferred.  Routines which didn’t work or can’t be transferred should be dropped and new routines which fit Distance Learning should be begun.  Keep your instruction radically student centered.

How do we do Distance Learning without over burdening our parents with multiple children in multiple grades?

Great question. How we support families is critical.  Have one or more of your staff reach out to your community to see what resources in churches, nonprofit and for profit organizations that are willing to help.