ST. PAUL, Minn. (KEYC) — Gov. Tim Walz announced during a press conference Thursday that each individual school district will be allowed to make its own decision as to how students will be learning in the fall.
The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) will work with school districts and local health professionals throughout the school year to help school districts decide if and when they may need to switch between the in-person, distance and hybrid learning models.
School districts and charter schools in Minnesota will also be required to give students and families the option to continue with the distance learning model, regardless of which model their school district decides to implement.
Along with the option for students and families to continue distance learning, school districts must also allow teachers and other school employees to work remotely to the extent possible.
Elected officials from across the state are releasing statements on the announcement, including here in southern Minnesota.
U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn (MN-01) took to Facebook on Wednesday, before Walz’s announcement, to voice his concerns and hopes about school this fall.
In his Facebook post, Hagedorn writes that Walz should not mandate a one-size-fits-all policy when it comes to reopening schools, adding that he believes local school districts should be the ones who should be making the decisions for how students learn during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hagedorn made it a point to call out his challenger in Minnesota’s First Congressional District in his Facebook post, Dan Feehan, who said the reopening of schools is a personal issue for him.
Feehan, who was narrowly defeated by Hagedorn for the U.S. Representative seat of Minnesota’s First Congressional District in 2018, said, from his talks with medical professionals, superintendents, teachers and parents across southern Minnesota, that the biggest things school districts need to safely reopen is a national policy for testing and tracing and sufficient Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
“As a parent of two Mankato Area Public School students, this is a personal issue for me. I have been speaking with medical professionals, superintendents, teachers, and parents across the district asking what they need for schools to safely re-open. Time after time, they say they need a national policy for testing and tracing and sufficient PPE. Our federal government and Congressman Hagedorn have failed to do so, which has put a tremendous burden on our local schools,” Feehan wrote in a statement to KEYC News Now. “It is unfortunate that Congressman Hagedorn continues to be hyper-partisan and cast blame on others while being unwilling to lead and do the hard-work of actually governing to help our schools safely re-open.”
Minnesota Rep. Jeremy Munson (23B) also commented on the plan, saying the “consequences of not being in school outweigh the health risks posed to children by COVID-19.″
Munson, who is suing Walz on the basis that the Democratic governor’s peacetime emergency powers are unconstitutional, did add that he appreciates the wisdom of local control by leaving the choice to the individual school districts to make decisions that best fit their circumstances, but said many of his concerns or questions were left unanswered.
“I think we can all agree education is paramount, and for many families and children, in-person learning is critical. The consequences of not being in school outweigh the health risks posed to children by COVID-19,” said Munson. “The science is very clear on schools. Lengthy time away from school results in social isolation, making it harder to address learning deficits, abuse, depression, or suicidal problems in children.
“Around the state, our learning environments and disease conditions vary. I appreciate the wisdom of local control by leaving the choice to the individual school districts to make decisions that best fit their circumstances. One-size-fits-all mandates are not effective and do not cause the least harm. Not all schools, buildings, communities and families are alike.
“While I am glad this is a local decision, along with many parents, many of my concerns and questions were left unanswered today, especially when I heard words like, ‘testing event’ and ‘universal testing’ in schools,” Munson said.