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Minneapolis schools pushes back shift to in-person learning

A rise in COVID-19 cases is forcing the district to move back the dial on its safe learning plan.

With the number of COVID-19 cases surging in Minnesota, the Minneapolis Public School District is moving back the dial on in-person student supports in order to protect students and staff. 

Minneapolis Schools Superintendent Ed Graff said during a call with reporters on Monday that planning efforts to shift to phase three of the district's five-phase safe learning plan, which could have happened as early as Monday, are on hold. 

Graff said that given the level of COVID-19 in the community, it won't be possible to shift to phase three "until further notice."

Phase three of the district's plan involved a shift to hybrid learning that includes targeted in-person learning, which prioritizes students in special education, English language learners and students who are homeless/highly mobile, the plan shows.

"We'll continue to operate at phase two with our essential school-age care for families and a very limited number of staff in our school buildings," Graff added, noting they're also reviewing Gov. Tim Walz's most recent executive order as it relates to the district's continued service to students, which will be discussed at Tuesday's regularly scheduled board of education meeting

Minneapolis Public Schools started out the year with all distance learning, and last month it began some in-person student support, which is phase two of the district's  plan, for about 250 students at six schools, Graff said.

The support provided included after-school tutoring and other services for students who needed them most. 

But despite staying in phase two, the district is temporarily discontinuing after-school add-on supports and after-school community education services. This does not impact athletic practices and games, which will continue based on the district and league's plans. 

"While we were pleased to offer these supports, the recent significant rise in COVID-19 rates requires that we pause those efforts, and essentially we're going to move our dial back," Graff said, calling this a "data-driven decision."

In Minneapolis, they've reached the threshold of 50 positive cases per 10,000, Associate Superintendent Rochelle Cox said on the call.

"We simply do not know how long we will remain in phase two," Cox said. 

Cox said the district's support team has advised that the case rate must get "well-below" the 50 cases per 10,000 mark and stay there for three to five days. From there, the district's support team is recommending not moving to the next phase until the case rate stays below the threshold for 28 days to ensure the case rates have stabilized. 

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