Safe Learning Plan announced

If COVID-19 infection rates in Sibley and Le Sueur counties don’t see a spike in upcoming weeks, at least some students will likely be returning to in-person learning this fall.

Gov. Tim Walz announced the state’s Safe Learning Plan on Thursday, July 30, which uses each county’s COVID-19 infection rate to determine whether students will be returning to the classroom, utilizing hybrid learning, or distance learning.

“As we look to this fall, it will be a first day unlike any we have ever seen,” Walz began.

The state released a matrix that each county and school district should use to calculate their COVID-19 case rate to determine what educational model should be used. The formula is as follows: Total number of cases in the last 14 days ÷ (county population/10,000)

The state outlined the following guidelines:

0-9 cases per 10,000: in-person learning for all students

10-19 cases per 10,000: in-person learning for elementary students; hybrid learning for secondary students

20-29 cases per 10,000: hybrid learning for all students

30-49 cases per 10,000: hybrid learning for elementary students; distance learning for secondary students

50+ cases per 10,000: distance learning for all students

According to Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm, children younger than 10 have been found to have a reduced capacity to transmit the virus, while high school age children have a great transmission capacity.

In-person learning would still require extra hygiene and cleaning practices throughout the day, along with all students wearing masks, but does not require six feet of social distancing at all times or reduced capacity.

However, even if a school district is allowed to reopen for in-person learning, they still must offer distance learning and remote teaching options for students and staff who may not be comfortable returning in person, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan stated.

“Distance learning was not perfect and this new plan won’t be perfect either,” Flanagan said. “We are relying on the expertise of our public health team, the compassion of our educators and the commitment of our communities to make this work. Our littlest Minnesotans are depending on us.”

Even if a school opens in one model, like in-person for elementary students and hybrid for secondary, there is the possibility that a district may need to change tactics if COVID-19 infection rates increase or decrease.

In addition, the governor announced that the state would be providing $250 million in support for the following:

  • Providing face coverings for every student, educator, and staff member;
  • Deploying a comprehensive COVID testing plan for educators and staff members;
  • Helping cover operational costs, like cleaning supplies, transportation, technology needs, and Wi-Fi access; and
  • Boosting student, family, and educator support, like digital navigation trainings, tutors, translation services, mental health support, and professional development.

There is still no word yet on what sports and activities may look like in the fall, although a recommendation is expected to come soon.

The Minnesota State High School League on Thursday announced that its Return to Participation Task Force will continue its work in developing programming options for the 2020-2021 school year to present to the League’s Board of Directors for final consideration and approval. The task force is expected to present options to the Board of Directors on Tuesday, Aug. 4.

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