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Minneapolis Public Schools ends mask mandate, loosen COVID-19 guidelines

The district joins St. Paul Public Schools, which recently voted to drop its mask mandate.

Minneapolis Public Schools is loosening its COVID-19 guidelines, including dropping its mask mandate for students and staff starting Monday.

MPS rolled out the new policies in a Thursday announcement, adding "staff/students can choose to wear a mask based on personal preference or level of risk."

Along with eliminating the mask mandate in schools, other buildings and transportation, MPS will discontinue contact tracing. This means students and their families won’t necessarily receive notice if someone in their class or team tests positive for COVID-19.

"MPS remains committed to maximizing in-person learning, meeting the academic and mental health needs of our students, and providing a safe learning environment for all," MPS Superintendent Ed Graff said in a statement.

Quarantine policies for students and staff have also changed. Fully vaccinated students and staff will not be required to quarantine following an exposure to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the isolation period for unvaccinated students and staff after an exposure has been cut from 10 days to five days. Masks will be required for these individuals until tens days after the exposure.

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The quarantine period for students and staff who have tested positive remains at 10 days.

The announcement comes as St. Paul Public Schools also opted to lift its mask mandate on Tuesday. But unlike MPS, St. Paul’s school board decided on the matter with a 6-1 vote.

The new policy also takes effect Monday.

While COVID-19 cases in Minnesota are low currently, there have been rising cases on the East Coast in recent weeks, driven by the BA.2 strain of the Omicron variant.

Wastewater data has shown that the BA.2 strain is dominant in Minnesota now, and while cases have been rising gradually, there has not been a major spike here as of yet.

The decision by Graff, who announced plans to step down from the position late last month, garnered criticism online.

One teacher on Twitter pointed to a tentative agreement between the district and the Minneapolis Teachers Federation. The agreement, which marked the end of a weeks-long strike, includes language stressing the importance of continued COVID-19 mitigation.

“... as we are entering another school year of COVID 19 affecting our teaching and learning conditions, we have experience with mitigation strategies, and have a responsibility to build upon and improve the protections and mitigation strategies as well as to be responsive to changing guidelines we employ within our learning spaces…,” the agreement reads. 

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