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St. Paul to start bringing students back to school buildings Feb. 1

Students have been distancing learning since the start of the pandemic last spring.

Students in St. Paul Public Schools have been distance learning for since the pandemic began in March, but come Feb. 1, 2021, some elementary school students will return to the classrooms. 

This comes after Gov. Tim Walz on Wednesday announced a revised plan that allows elementary schools to choose if they want to return to distance learning as early as Jan. 18, regardless of county COVID-19 rates.  

Related: All elementary schools can move to in-person learning under new executive order

While details are still being finalized, St. Paul Public Schools Superintendent Joe Gothard on Thursday announced the district's plan to bring the youngest learners back into the classroom, with students in Pre-K through second-grade at most schools returning to full-time in-person learning on Feb. 1. 

"Distance learning has been challenging for all of us. We are excited to be getting closer to in-person learning, and promise to provide regular updates as details are finalized," Gothard's announcement said. 

Students in special education from birth to second-grade and students in the district's Special Education Federal IV programs will also return to in-person programs on Feb. 1. 

Meanwhile, students in third-grade through fifth-grade will return to in-person learning at most schools on Tuesday, Feb. 16. 

The state's revised Safe Learning Plan requires tests be available for teachers and staff to get tested every two weeks, with the district saying staff will start getting tested the week of Jan. 18. 

And the week of Jan. 25, teachers and school staff will continue to plan for the transition back to distance learning, which means there will be a "number of days" without student instruction. More details on that are forthcoming, the district says. 

Meanwhile, families of students in Pre-K through fifth-grade who want to stay in distance learning for the remainder of the school year are asked to enroll in the district's Virtual Learning School by Friday, Jan. 8, if they haven't already done so. 

Older students in sixth-grade through 12th-grade will remain distance learning "for the time being," Gothard says, noting in-person programs to help students who are falling behind will be announced after winter break.

The Pioneer Press notes that the district had been preparing to transition students into a hybrid learning model in January, but following the governor's announcement, those plans have been scrapped. 

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