A week after the Department of Education and Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced guidance for back-to-school planning, the first of what will be many weekly releases reveals COVID-19 infection rates in every Minnesota county.
The model for whether a district plans for in-person instruction, distance learning or a hybrid of the two is based on the number of cases per 10,000 residents in a county over a 14-day period. Here's the breakdown:
- 0-9 cases per 10,000 residents: In-person learning for all students
- 10-19 cases per 10,000 residents: In-person learning for elementary students; hybrid learning for secondary students
- 20-29 cases per 10,000 residents: Hybrid learning for all students
- 30-49 cases per 10,000 residents: Hybrid learning for elementary students; distance learning for secondary students
- 50+ cases per 10,000 residents: Distance learning for all students
Based on the learning model parameters, 46 of Minnesota's 87 counties are below the threshold (0-9 cases per 10,000 residents) for in-person learning for all students. There are 28 counties in tier 2 (10-19 cases per 10,000 residents), which sets the stage for elementary students receiving in-person instruction and a hybrid model for secondary students.
There are 10 counties with 20-29 cases per 10,000 residents, which equates to a hybrid model for all students. Those counties are: Blue Earth, Grant, Hennepin, Koochiching, Lyon, Rock, Scott, Sherburne, Waseca and Watonwan.
No counties are above 50 cases per 10,000 residents, though three are in the 30-49 range: Lincoln, Murray and Pipestone. Those three counties, were they in school now, would be advised to provide distance learning for secondary students while using the hybrid model for elementary kids.
Here's how all 87 Minnesota counties have fared in terms of cases per 10,000 residents on 14-day increments dating back to the end of May.
What if school districts are in multiple counties, as many in Minnesota are? The guidance says that a "school district or charter school whose enrollment includes a large proportion of students from an adjacent county should use data from the county with the highest bi-weekly case rate to inform the recommended learning model."
So if a district crosses multiple county lines – or gets many of its students from an adjacent county – the determination will be made based on the highest COVID-19 case rate in any of the counties involved.