ST. PAUL, Minn. (KTTC) -- Gov. Tim Walz has announced a plan to return more of Minnesota's middle and high school students to the classroom.
Walz made the announcement in a news release on Wednesday. Beginning Monday, Walz said all middle and school students can return for hybrid or in-person learning. Walz said he expects all schools “to offer their students some form of in-person learning by March 8.”
“It’s time for students to be back in the classroom,” Walz said in a news release. “We aren’t out of the woods, but our relentless progress with vaccines and Minnesotans’ vigilance has put us closer than ever to the end of this pandemic. Our progress means we can get more students safely back into classrooms. As a parent and former teacher, I know how critical this step is for the economic security, well-being, and mental health of our kids and their families.”
The governor noted this announcement is being made as the state makes progress with the vaccine rollout, surpassing 940,000 doses administered to more than 695,000 people. Hospitalizations and new confirmed cases have also declined in Minnesota.
Walz said next week, educators will have access to more than 18,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, an increase from previous weeks.
“Students learn best when they’re in person with their teachers,” Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan said in a news release. “For my second-grader and for students across the state, returning to the classroom has supported their overall mental and physical health, as well as their ability to learn. Getting students safely back to school is a critical piece in addressing the racial and geographic disparities that have been exacerbated by distance learning.”
The governor said district or charter schools that are already operating in-person or hybrid learning or that have announced plans to do so may continue with their plans. He also said families who don't want to send their students back to the classroom can continue with distance learning.
Middle and high schools will be required to implement health and safety strategies, including physical distancing requirements.
“Thanks to vaccines and the hard work of so many people we are getting closer to the end of this pandemic,” Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm said. “Having more students able to be in the classroom is a positive step, and it’s up to all of us to protect that progress by keeping up our vigilance.”
The news release said students and families who are participating in in-person learning or hybrid learning are encouraged to get a COVID-19 test every two weeks. This also is recommended for students participating in sports or activities.
You can read the updated Safe Learning Plan here.