Governor says school districts to make ultimate decision about how school year will begin

Staff Writer
Redwood Falls Gazette
Redwood Falls Gazette

Governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan, along with officials from the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), recently announced Minnesota’s Safe Learning Plan for the 2020-21 school year last week.

School districts and charter schools will begin in one of three models: in-person, distance learning or a hybrid model. Experts at the departments of health and education will partner with local school districts and charter schools to help determine which learning model they should use to start the school year.

The decision-making process focuses on the health, safety and well-being of students, staff and families by using the level of viral activity in the surrounding county and other factors, such as the district’s ability to meet mitigation requirements.

The learning model decision will be announced by the local school district.

According to a recent letter to parents from the Redwood Area School District, the Redwood Area Board of Education will make the final determination regarding the 2020-21 school year at its Aug. 24 meeting. Prior to that a parent survey has been created to receive input regarding the final decision. Find that and other information related to the local school district’s decision timeline on its Web site at

“As a classroom teacher for more than 20 years and a parent of a child in public schools, I am committed to providing a world-class education to our students while keeping them and their teachers safe,” said Walz. “With this approach, we are pairing the knowledge and data from our departments of health and education with the expertise of our local school districts to make the best decisions for our students across the state.” 

The departments of education and health will work with school districts and local health professionals throughout the school year to help districts decide if and when they need to dial between learning models depending on the progression and cause of the virus in their specific community.

When switching between learning models, the plan prioritizes keeping younger children in the classroom, understanding that transmission is less likely for younger children and that in-person learning is particularly critical at their developmental stage.

The governor is also requiring school districts and charter schools to give families the option to choose distance learning for their student no matter which learning model their school district is implementing.

Additionally, the governor is requiring districts to allow teachers and school employees to work remotely to the extent possible.

Walz is investing more than $430 million in federal funding to help schools, educators, students and families through this uncertain time.

Funding comes from the Governor’s Education Emergency Relief, Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief and the Coronavirus Relief Fund. Walz provided $180 million through the summer to improve distance learning and fund summer learning programs.

The governor also announced an additional $250 million of support that will:

• Provide face coverings for every student, educator and staff member

• Deploy a comprehensive COVID testing plan for educators and staff

• Help cover operational costs, like cleaning supplies, transportation, technology needs and WiFi access

• Boost student, family and educator support, like digital navigation trainings, tutors, translation services, mental health support and professional development.

“The health and safety of our students, educators, school staff and families are our number one priority,” said Mary Cathryn Ricker, MDE commissioner. “This localized approach that is centered on the data and informed by a school’s ability to follow all the public health requirements, will help school districts and charter schools navigate this uncertain school year.”

The governor has also prioritized family and community needs by mobilizing his state agencies to create strategies and flexibilities for child care and school-age care providers and protections for workers who need to provide care for children during the school-day.

“We all recognize that COVID-19 is going to continue to impact our schools and our communities for months to come, but those impacts are varied and hard to predict,” said Jan Malcolm, MDH commissioner. “It is important for the well-being of Minnesota children that we get this right, and that we have solid and flexible plans in place to adapt to the COVID-19 challenge."