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St. Paul Public Schools joins Minneapolis starting year remotely

The school board voted Wednesday to begin remotely for at least six weeks

St. Paul Public Schools students will join their Minneapolis counterparts in beginning the school year with distance learning. 

The St. Paul school board voted 5-1 on Wednesday to approve Superintendent Joe Gothard's proposal to start at least the first six weeks of the school year via distance learning. 

During the distance learning, several schools will host academic support centers where students can go for academic, social-emotional or technological help beginning in October. 

Gothard and the school board will consider beginning a hybrid model of learning as early as Oct. 19, which follows the Minnesota Educator Academy weekend conference, or perhaps Nov. 16, the start of the second academic quarter. 

Gov. Tim Walz released guidelines last week which urge districts to partially base their decisions on the rate of new coronavirus cases countywide.

But even if Ramsey County were to hit a point where theoretically schools could safely open, Gothard said he is concerned that some schools don't have enough room to operate at a regular capacity with social distancing, the Pioneer Press reported.

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Starting with distance learning gives the district more time to pin down important details, from bus routes to staffing needs, for a potential hybrid or in-person model, Gothard told the newspaper. 

The district said its latest parent survey in July found that 43 percent of respondents preferred distance learning, 23 preferred in-person and 32 said they were undecided. 

Gothard will hold another virtual meeting for parents and families Thursday at 6:30 p.m. More details are on the district website

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