School districts and charter schools must electronically post and communicate their contingency in-person learning, hybrid learning, and distance learning plans to students and their families no later than one week before the beginning of their respective 2020-21 school year. School districts and charter schools must make all attempts to provide such communications orally and written in languages spoken in their respective school district or charter school.
Regardless of which learning model is being implemented at the school building, all school districts and charter schools must offer an equitable distance learning model to all families who choose not to attend in-person learning due to medical risks or other safety concerns.
Regardless of learning model, the school district or charter school must continue to provide meals to students during the school day to the extent possible.
Yes, school districts and charter schools are required to provide free school-age (age 12 and under) during regular school hours for critical worker families. Schools may charge a fee for before and after school care.
Per Governor Walz’s Executive Order 20-81, all students grades K through 12 must wear a face covering while they are in school buildings, making exemptions for children who are five-years-old and under, and those with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that makes it unreasonable for the individual to maintain a face covering.
Because this is such an important mitigation strategy, we are ensuring all public school students and staff have the face coverings they need for in-person and hybrid learning.
Schools will receive assistance from the Regional Support Teams that will help them determine appropriate next steps such as how to communicate with their school communities, contact tracing, and notifying close contacts. Regional Support Teams are a partnership between MDE, MDH, regional service cooperatives and local public health to support school districts and charter schools in navigating the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the 2020-21 school year.
The Minnesota State High School League will announce their decisions about the fall activity season soon.
No. MDE will continue to provide funding to school districts and charter schools throughout the 2020-21 school year regardless of which learning model they choose to implement. The health and safety of our students, educators, and school staff are our number one priority.
It does not. The Safe Learning Plan for the 2020-21 School year is just for Minnesota’s PreK through grade 12 public school districts and charter schools.
MDE does not have jurisdiction over nonpublic schools, but we urge all Minnesota schools to consult with public health experts and use the Safe Learning Plan to determine which learning model is best for their community that prioritizes the health and safety of students, educators, school staff, and families.
The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) in partnership with MDH issued guidance to schools to provide pre-K through grade 12 (K-12) school leaders guidance around policies, practices, and strategies that districts and schools must implement and recommendations they should consider to optimize education and promote health and safety, while mitigating risk throughout the school year. This guidance is based on research and trends seen across the globe and in other child settings here in Minnesota.
School districts in consultation with local public health, MDE and MDH are working to identify school selection of in-person, hybrid or distance learning models with safety as the backbone of all of plans and dial forward or dial back strategies to create safe and healthy school environments.
Many families will need care for their children during periods of hybrid and distance learning in order to report to work or fulfill other obligations. Families that need assistance with finding care can call the Child Care Aware referral line at 1.888.291.9811 to be directed to available licensed child care providers or visit mn.gov/childcare to view a map of available providers. The Governor’s Children’s Cabinet, in partnership with relative state agencies, are in continuous communication with and providing support to child care providers to share information, provide support and ensure they adhere to required public health guidance. The state is also working to identify other opportunities to help meet the needs for school-age care.
Families in need of financial assistance should use Children’s Defense Fund-Minnesota’s Bridge to Benefits screening tool to determine financial supports for which they may be eligible. They are also encouraged to apply for Child Care Assistance.
Families should also take this time to plan, schools may move between learning models to prioritize student safety and in-person instruction whenever possible. Consider family, friends and neighbors that may be able to support you by providing care for your child if your child’s school needs to quickly shift to hybrid or distance learning.
During a hybrid or distance learning model when students are not receiving in-person instruction, districts and charter schools will 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.
The federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) requires certain employers to provide employees with emergency paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. These provisions are effective through December 31, 2020. The paid sick leave and the expanded family and medical leave provisions of FFCRA apply to certain public employers and to private employers with fewer than 500 employees.
This includes up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay (up to $200 a day and $10,000 in the aggregate), where an employee, who has been employed for at least 30 calendar days, is unable to work due to a bona fide need for leave to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.
Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees may qualify for exemption from the requirement to provide leave due to school closings or child care unavailability if the leave requirements would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern. Also, health care providers and emergency responders can be excluded.
More information can be found on the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division webpage.
Minnesota unemployment insurance law provides that an applicant is not ineligible for unemployment insurance benefits if the applicant's loss of child care for the applicant's minor child caused the applicant to quit the employment, provided the applicant made reasonable effort to obtain other child care and requested time off or other accommodation from the employer. To get more information about unemployment insurance or to apply for benefits, visit www.uimn.org.
Depending on a number of factors, schools may use distance (online) learning; be allowed to resume in-person learning; or have a mix of models, where with some students are in school while others learn from home.
The three listed scenarios are the different “learning models.” School districts and charter schools may have different learning models for different grade levels. Models may include options such as in-person learning for all elementary students and hybrid model for secondary students, or hybrid learning for elementary students and distance learning for all secondary students.
School districts and charter schools must consider their own ability and resources to provide in-person learning, distance learning, or both, while following safety requirements and recommendations. Health officials will provide recommendations for school districts and charter schools based on a number of factors, including the level of community spread of COVID-19 in the area and the differences in potential spread among different age groups and settings.
In determining which learning model to use, decision-makers must prioritize the safety of students and staff while also considering the importance of in-person learning, especially for younger learners. Distance learning is more challenging for younger learners and their families. Additionally, not all students will have equal access to the technology necessary for distance learning.
Regardless of the learning model used, all public schools must offer a distance learning option that is fair for all families. The COVID pandemic has already had a significant and unequal impact on communities of color, indigenous communities, and persons with special health needs, contributing to heightened issues of learning inequity. It is important that everyone in the school community take steps to reduce transmission, particularly to those at higher risk, while balancing the need to maintain a strong education system that effectively supports all staff, students, and communities.
School districts, charter schools, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), and the local public health agency, as applicable, will work together to monitor the number of cases of COVID-19 in an area or facility and the schools’ ability to follow health requirements and best practices to keep students and staff safe. Adjustments will be made to the learning model as needed. The commissioners of MDE and MDH have the authority to stop in-person learning if an outbreak or increase in community spread occurs.
Schools may be allowed to move from distance learning to a model that involves a higher level of in-person learning, after consulting with health officials to assess the level of disease spread and the impact on the school community.
A school that is initially required to use a distance learning model due to high levels of viral transmission in the school or local geographic community may consider using a mixed learning model as a bridge to safely move back toward in-person learning if conditions are appropriate. For example, a school could operate using a hybrid model for two incubation periods (28 days) and carefully monitor for any additional clusters of confirmed cases of COVID-19 before transitioning back to a full in-person learning model.
School districts and charter schools should consider the number of cases in a county to determine the recommended base learning models. However, high case numbers do not necessarily mean that a school must choose the most restrictive learning models. Data can be found at Schools and Child Care: COVID-19.
For example, recommendations may be different if a high number of cases in a county is due to a known, isolated outbreak within a workplace rather than from widespread community transmission. Conversely, if numbers are moderately low, but the local case count is increasing over a number of weeks, a school may consider moving away from in-person learning.
School districts and charter schools are strongly encouraged to consult state and local health officials for help interpreting trends or with questions about the local epidemiology of COVID-19, as well as state education officials with questions regarding learning model selection.
All facilities opening to students and staff are required to have a COVID-19 preparedness plan and assign a building-level COVID-19 program coordinator, with an optional student counterpart.
More information can be found in the 2020-2021 Planning Guide for Schools: Health Considerations for Navigating COVID-19 (PDF).
In addition to addressing the health requirements in the preparedness plan, MDH recommends that schools keep students and staff in small groups that stay together as much as possible throughout the day and from day to day. Schools should limit mixing between groups as much as possible, such as during lunch in the cafeteria, bathroom breaks, arrival and dismissal, free periods, recess, etc. Schools should ensure ventilation systems operate properly and increase circulation of outdoor air as much as possible, for example by opening windows and doors.
The first step in the process of responding to a COVID-19 case in a school is to conduct contact tracing to identify close contacts of anyone with a confirmed case who attended school while infectious. Close contact is when someone is within 6 feet of the ill person for at least 15 minutes. All close contacts of a confirmed case will be notified of their exposure and asked to stay at home for 14 days since their last exposure to the confirmed case.
The decision to close a classroom or school is made on a case-by-case basis and depends on the length of time the ill person spent in the space, whether 6 feet of distancing was maintained consistently, the extent of the ill person's activities while infectious in the school facility, and the extent to which all close contacts can be identified. Schools must work collaboratively with local and state health officials to identify close contacts of a case and evaluate the extent of the exposure to determine if a full classroom or school closure is warranted.
Schools must report all confirmed cases of COVID-19 to the MDH or their local public health agency. MDH or the local public health agency conduct a case investigation and identify anyone who potentially has been exposed to the confirmed case. MDH or the local public health agency notifies those who have been exposed and provides them with information about how to protect themselves, their families and their communities.
Schools are asked to assist in the notification process of all close contacts. See What To Do When Notified of a Lab-Confirmed Case of COVID-19 in a School or Child Care Setting (PDF) for more information about the contact tracing process in schools.
Testing events, including school-wide or community testing, may be recommended in communities or districts where there is a lot of ongoing transmission occurring at the school. School administrators, along with local public health, MDH and state testing leaders, will assess the need for a testing event.
When a confirmed case of COVID-19 is identified at a school, MDH or local public health staff members will work with school officials to identify anyone who has had close contact with the confirmed case while they were infectious. All close contacts will be notified that they have been exposed to a confirmed case and provided with instructions about what they should do to protect themselves, their families, and their communities. Public health officials will work with school officials to prepare notification letters that will then be provided to everyone who is a close contact. See What To Do When Notified of a Lab-Confirmed Case of COVID-19 in a School or Child Care Setting (PDF) for more information about the contract tracing process in school settings.
No. All lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 are reported to MDH. When MDH does the investigation for someone who is positive, during that conversation the individual provides permission for MDH to share with the person’s employer, school, or other venues. Giving MDH this permission is important so schools can help with the case identification and notification of close contacts. A school cannot require families to share test results directly without written permission from the family.
If the exposure is contained to a specific classroom or area of the building and only involved a small number of people, the entire school or program may not need to shut down. However, those who were exposed to the positive case would need to stay home and should self-quarantine.
While people who are considered to be a close contact would be notified of an exposure and given guidance on how to protect themselves and others, officials would not provide identifying details of the person who was found to be positive for COVID-19. This is because sharing that kind of identifying information about the positive case violates the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and may also violate other privacy laws. It is also important to avoid potential discrimination against someone who tests positive.
All schools are required to develop a COVID-19 preparedness plan. You can ask to see the plan and talk to the designated plan coordinator. If there is still no resolution, contact the school board or MDE.
If the concern is about employee or workplace safety, contact Minnesota OSHA (MNOSHA) Compliance at firstname.lastname@example.org, 651-284-5050 or 877-470-6742 with questions or to file a complaint.