The hundreds of public and charter schools in Minnesota will be going back to school in September with different education models, and each school's plan of action will be based on the COVID-19 infection rates in the county the school is located.
All decisions will be based on county-level data of viral activity, and the model of choice – in person, hybrid or distance learning – will shift as the pandemic shifts. It's important to note key information from Thursday's announcement by the Gov. Tim Walz and the Department of Education:
- Districts can go with more restrictive measures
- Families can opt-in to distance learning even if schools have in-person learning
- Teachers must be granted the choice work remotely
- Schools provide 1 cloth face mask for every teacher and student in K-12
- Schools will receive 3 disposable face masks for every student, teacher as a backup
- Schools will receive face shields so younger or deaf/hard of hearing students can see their teacher's faces
The county-level data will be based on how many cases there are per 10,000 residents on a 14-day rolling average, which school districts having to potentially change up their teaching plans based on the rate of COVID-19 in their local area.
However, flexibility would also be given for schools to stay open to in-person classes if, for example, rising cases in the local area is based on an isolated outbreak outside of school, and there is limited risk of it spreading to students or teachers.
As of Thursday, July 30, here's how Minnesota counties, via MPR's David Montgomery, would be slotted into each category. On the map below, orange represents in-person for all students; yellow is in-person for elementary and hybrid for secondary; blue is hybrid for all; and dark blue is hybrid for elementary and distance learning for secondary.
An official starting decision will be made by each district one week before school starts.
"This guidance is not drawn in stone. We understand that there is going to be a broader array of metrics that come forward, we just want the health data to be a focus of the decision," said Walz.
What if school districts are in multiple counties, as many in Minnesota are? The guidance says that a "school district or charter school whose enrollment includes a large proportion of students from an adjacent county should use data from the county with the highest bi-weekly case rate to inform the recommended learning model."
So if a district crosses multiple county lines – or gets many of its students from an adjacent county – the determination will be made based on the highest COVID-19 case rate in any of the counties involved.
Three counties in southwest Minnesota are colored in dark blue: Pipestone, Rock and Murray counties.
Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott, Sherburne, Watonwan, Blue Earth, Waseca, Lincoln, Beltrami, Koochiching and Red Lake counties would have the hybrid model for all students.
Minneapolis Public Schools, located in Hennepin County, is planning for more restrictive measures. Rather than following the current hybrid model guidance, MPS may return to school with distance learning, though some in-person instruction and tutoring would be made available where necessary.
The majority of Minnesota counties, based on current 14-day infection rates, would go back to school with 100 percent in-person instruction or a hybrid model for secondary students/in-person instruction for elementary students.