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Rochester reacts to Walz’s updated safe learning plan

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- As it stands right now in Rochester, elementary students return to in-person learning by March 1, and secondary students return April 5.

However, Gov. Tim Walz's safe learning plan aims to get secondary students back into buildings sooner than that.

RPS Parent Megan Mikkalson

RPS Parent Megan Mikkalson said her children have been feeling lonely and are wanting to get back into the classroom, but that's not the only factor for her family.

"If we were a more typical family, I would send my kids back but because we have health conditions, we will choose distance learning at the point," Mikkalson said.

Mikkalson's family has an immuno-compromised member who has not yet received the COVID-19 vaccine. So, she's made the decision to continue distance learning for her children.

"I think kids getting back in school is just so important. I know that this is really hard on their mental health and that's a big of a crisis as the pandemic at this point," Mikkalson said.

She adds if her family member received the vaccine she would be sending her kids back to school.

Rochester Public Schools Board Chair Jean Marvin

Rochester Public Schools Board Chair Jean Marvin said the governor seemed very optimistic Wednesday, and wants kids back in school also.

But added, it's ultimately the district's decision.

"This is a decision that needs to be made district by district," Marvin said. "He talked about local authority which I think is good. You know he's made mandates before this is not a mandate."

Marvin adds that the district's COVID-19 advisory team, made up of school and public health officials, is basing all decisions on science and it remains flexible about making changes.

"We are having pretty good luck of getting our elementary staff vaccinated. Not so much with the secondary yet. The vaccine hasn't been here the way we'd hoped," Marvin said.

Marvin said no matter the decision, there will be an option for families such as the Mikkalson's.

"One decision will be distant learning going forward," Marvin said. "The other decision has to be when can we get most kinds into our building as soon as possible under conditions that are safe."

The RPS COVID-19 task force will be meeting Thursday afternoon. It will go over latest the guidelines and recommend changes if needed.

Ubah Ali

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