MDE is asking schools to prepare for three different scenarios for the upcoming school year

MINNESOTA - On Thursday, Minnesota departments of education and health released guidance for the 2020-21 school year, recommending that school districts prepare for three different scenarios. Schools are being told to develop plans for a full return to classroom teaching, a hybrid model of classroom/distance learning and full distance learning.

The MDE said a full decision on how the state will proceed is expected by July 27 at the latest.

Full in-person learning would be implemented if COVID-19 rates "continue to stabilize and/or improve" before the start of the school year.

Schools must create as much space between students and teachers as possible and minimize contact, but will not be held to strictly enforcing the 6 feet rule during teaching time in the classroom.

With hybrid learning, which would be implemented if COVID-19 worsens at the local, regional, or statewide level, or if there is a clusters of cases within a classroom or the school, schools must limit number of people in facilities and transportation to 50 percent of maximum occupancy. Social distancing would be in effect at all times, or the number of occupants must be reduced.

Some face-to-face instruction will be replaced by distance learning, which can include "multimedia-enhanced content, learning practice, and channels for ongoing discussion."

If distance learning only was implemented, student attendance must be tracked. This would only go into effect if local, regional, or statewide COVID-19 metrics worsen significantly enough to require the suspension of in-person learning.

A number of issues would need to be worked out by the schools, including daily interaction with teachers. The guidelines say training on the implementation of distance learning must be provided to staff, students, and parents. If using online learning, the school or district must ensure it can "effectively support" its teaching needs, including providing the option for one-on-one support for students who need it.

Also, access to programs for school nurses, school counselors, school psychologists, school social workers, paraprofessionals, other school specialists and cultural liaisons must be made available.

If things continue to trend the way they have been with COVID-19, there's a chance that in-person instruction could resume in the fall, with the positive case rate, hospitalization rate, and death rate all slowing or falling.

Nonetheless, the priority for the departments will be the health and safety of students, teachers, and parents.

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