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COVID-19: Gov. Tim Walz to announce middle, high school reopening plans

The governor will address Minnesotans at noon.

Gov. Tim Walz will make a major announcement on the expansion of his "safe learning plan" for Minnesota, which will lay out a timeline for the return of middle and high school students to in-person teaching.

The governor will address the state at noon, which will be streamed live on his YouTube page, followed by a press conference at 1 p.m.

In a statement Tuesday evening, Walz's office said that "following Minnesota’s successful effort to expand in-person learning for elementary students, Governor Tim Walz will lay out a strategy to bring more middle and high school students safely back to the classroom."

Since the start of the 2020-21 academic year, the Walz Administration has left it up to school districts as to whether they should reopen for in-person tuition, however these districts had to make their decision using state guidance based on local COVID-19 rates. If rates were too high and they stayed open, the state reserved the right to order them to close down.

But the governor in December said all elementary schools could choose to move to in-person learning starting January instead of basing the decision on county infection rates in an effort to prioritize the state's youngest learners.

This now is apparently being expanded to include middle and high schools too with Minnesota's COVID rate having dropped significantly since December, although there remains concerns about another rise due to the emergence of more contagious COVID variants, such as the B117 U.K. variant.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday released new guidance for reopening schools, which has students returning to in-person learning when community transmission is low. 

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But it turns out more than 90% of students in the U.S. are living in the CDC's "red zones" or areas that have the highest risk of community transmission in schools, CBS News reported.

In these red zones, the CDC encourages a hybrid model for elementary students, and a hybrid for older students too, so long as other mitigation measures are also taken, the Washington Post said, noting the CDC has been criticized for its new guidance that would send many schools that are fully open back to distance learning or a hybrid model.

As of Feb. 16, 28% of school buildings in Minnesota are doing in-person learning, the Minnesota Department of Education's website shows. Ten percent are doing hybrid learning model, 15% are doing distance learning and 48% are doing some combination of the three. 

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