Minnesota schools won’t re-open this spring

By: and - April 23, 2020 2:23 pm

Gov. Tim Walz on Wednesday announcing he would extend his stay-home order until May 4. Walz announced a multi-state agreement Thursday on reopening the economy.

Minnesota schools will remain closed through the end of the school year in hopes of slowing the spread of COVID-19, Gov. Tim Walz announced Thursday, five weeks after he first closed schools so educators could plan for distance learning.

That means most of the state’s 875,000 students have at least another six weeks of distance learning before summer break, which in many districts begins in early June. Nearly three dozen other states with a combined enrollment of more than 30.5 million students have also closed schools through the end of the academic year.

“As a former teacher, this is a heartbreaking decision,” Walz said in a statement. “I am sorry for all of our students who will miss out on graduations, tournaments and end of year celebrations. While I recognize distance learning is a challenge for many families, it is critical to social distancing in Minnesota and supports the health of Minnesota’s families.”

Distance learning has proved challenging for educators as well as students and parents, especially low-income families, families of children with disabilities, those who speak languages other than English at home and families without access to internet or computers.

Researchers say the extended school closures, supported by public health experts, could deepen Minnesota’s already-entrenched educational disparities. 

As for whether families should plan for distance learning in the summer or fall, Walz said he doesn’t know. Walz and Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker said they would provide more information about school closures and distance learning Friday.

Walz also announced Thursday that between 80,000 to 100,000 workers in non-essential industries like manufacturing, and office settings without customer-facing environments. 

Walz again used several slides to walk the public through his administration’s process for how it will gradually re-open the state’s economy. Walz’s stay-at-home order is currently set to expire May 4.

Businesses will need to prepare and prominently post for employees a COVID-19 preparedness plan, outlining the steps they are taking to ensure worker safety. The plan will need to make clear that workers who can do their jobs from home continue to do so; sick workers must stay home and employers must screen workers entering the workplace; social distancing and hygiene policies and procedures will also be required.

“This is a limited first step in the process of safely reopening some businesses and returning Minnesotans to work,” said Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove in a statement. “We will continue to listen to and seek input from business and community leaders and work with public health experts on creative solutions to put more people back to work as safely and quickly as possible.”

The state has received 536,742 unemployment applications since the crisis began in mid-March, according to Grove. Thursday also saw a big jump in lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases, partly the result of expanded testing.

More than 2,900 Minnesotans have tested positive for COVID-19 and 200 have died, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Health. The state announced Wednesday a plan to test up to 20,000 Minnesotans daily — a significant increase in testing capacity — through a joint effort with Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota.

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Rilyn Eischens
Rilyn Eischens

Rilyn Eischens is a former data reporter for the Minnesota Reformer. Rilyn was born and raised in Minnesota and has worked in newsrooms in the Twin Cities, Iowa, Texas and most recently Virginia, where she covered education for The Staunton News Leader. She's an alumna of the Dow Jones News Fund data journalism program and the Minnesota Daily. When Rilyn isn't in the newsroom, she likes to read, add to her plant collection and try new recipes.

Ricardo Lopez
Ricardo Lopez

Ricardo Lopez is the senior political reporter for the Reformer. Ricardo is not new to Minnesota politics, previously reporting on the Dayton administration and statehouse for The Star Tribune from 2014 to 2017, and the Republican National Convention in 2016. Previously, he was a staff writer at The Los Angeles Times covering the California economy. He's a Las Vegas native who has adopted Minnesota as his home state. In his spare time, he likes to run, cook and volunteer with Save-a-Bull, a Minneapolis dog rescue group.