Last week, Governor Tim Walz and Lt. Governor Flanagan, along with the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) are announcing Minnesota’s Safe Learning Plan for the 2020-21 school year. As a part of this plan, MDE and MDH have created Regional Support Teams to assist schools as they navigate the upcoming school year. On Thursday, July 30, this announcement also comes with $430 million in funds to support schools, provide face coverings for every student, educator and staff member, and provide a COVID-19 saliva test for each educator in Minnesota.
Minnesota’s Safe Learning Plan for the 2020-21 school year
Minnesota’s Safe Learning Plan for the 2020-21 school year uses a localized, data-driven approach that allows school districts and charter schools to operate in a learning model that is responsive the prevalence of COVID-19 cases in their community. The plan prioritizes safe learning for all Minnesota students, including 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.
To begin the 2020-21 school year, MDH developed parameters using county public health data to support the determination of learning models for each school district and charter school. In order to determine the base learning model for the beginning of the school year, school districts and charter schools should review the bi-weekly case rate (over 14 days) by county of residence. These data are the number of cases by county of residence in Minnesota over 14 days per 10,000 people by date of specimen collection (when a person was tested).
View the bi-weekly case rates by county on the MDH website at health.state.mn.us.
Learning model parameters (Number of cases per 10,000 over 14 days, by county of residence, Learning model)
0-9 – In-person learning for all students.
10-19 – In-person learning for elementary students; hybrid learning for secondary students.
20-29 – Hybrid learning for all students.
30-49 – Hybrid learning for elementary students; distance learning for secondary students.
50+ – Distance learning for all students.
Regional support teams and consultation
MDE, MDH, regional service cooperatives and local public health are collaborating to create Regional Support Teams to support school districts and charter schools in navigating the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the 2020-21 school year.
• Beginning Thursday, July 30, school districts and charter schools may begin working with a consultant to discuss their learning model determination. To begin this process, superintendents and charter school leaders should email Distance.Learning.MDE@state.mn.us, requesting a consultation appointment and sharing the questions they would like answered. An appointment will be scheduled with the appropriate expert.
• Beginning Monday, Aug. 24, school districts and charter schools will work with their regional support teams to consult regarding implementation and ongoing evaluation of their learning model.
Regardless of which safe learning model is implemented, school districts and charter schools must adhere to the health requirements and recommendations in MDH 2020-21 Planning Guidance for Schools and MDE 2020-21 Planning Guidance for Minnesota Public Schools, which were released in June.
$430 Million in funding to support schools
Governor Walz is making $430 million available to school districts and charter schools to help them prepare for the 2020-21 school year. These funds can be used to cover operational costs (ex: cleaning and screen supplies, technology, Wi-Fi, and mental health supports) and support to boost student, family, and educator support (ex: digital training, tutors, translation services, and professional development).
In addition, this funding will allow the state to provide:
• Every K-12 student with one cloth face covering.
• Every school staff member with one cloth face covering.
• Every school with three disposable face masks per student and face shields for all licensed teachers and 50% of non-licensed staff.
These face coverings will be distributed through the regional service cooperatives.
Minnesota has also used these funds to secure a contract with a national saliva testing lab and will work with all insurers to ensure that all educators have access to a COVID-19 test from day one. This test can be conducted at home and uses a courier for transport. This ensures that in the case where an educator has close contact with a confirmed case and experiences any challenges getting tested in their community, there is a back-up option.
School-age care for children ofessential workers
Care for school-aged children of certain workers in critical sectors will continue to be crucial for frontline workers to continue to confront the pandemic. During a hybrid or distance learning model when students are not receiving in-person instruction, districts and charter schools must provide care for school-age children age 12 and under who are children of critical workers on Tier I of the state critical worker list. This care is provided during regular school hours at no cost. More information, including the critical worker list, is available in MDE’s 2020-21 Planning Guidance for Minnesota Public Schools.
Continuing support throughout the school year
This upcoming school year will once again be unlike any we have seen before. However, we now know to expect the unexpected and we are better equipped to tackle whatever uncertainties lie ahead. As always, we at the Minnesota Department of Education, will be with you every step of the way. We will continue our weekly calls and you can reach Commissioner Ricker at (651) 558-6205 and Deputy Commissioner Mueller at (651) 334-1913.