Minnesota Back to School? The 2020-2021 School Year Plan

The Big Question of 2020: “What is your family doing for back to school this year?”

July 30th Update – Gov. Walz announced the final decision on schools. It is NOT one-size-fits all. Minneapolis schools are starting the year with distance learning, while my St. Anthony student will be in a hybrid situation. The governor’s plan recognize differences in areas and ages of students. 

In order to permit some flexibility for districts and take into account disease prevalence at a local level, this is the model school districts are asked to use based on cases in their own counties:

  • 0-9 cases: In-person learning for all students.
  • 10-19 cases: In-person learning for elementary students; hybrid learning for secondary (middle and high school) students.
  • 20-29 cases: Hybrid learning for all students.
  • 30-49 cases: Hybrid learning for elementary students; distance learning for secondary (middle and high school) students.
  • 50 or more cases: Distance learning for all students.

Read More: 2020-21 Planning Guidance for Minnesota Public Schools.


Gianna has ideas for getting prepared — whatever the decision is for your district.
July 23rd Update – Face Coverings: On July 22nd, Governor Walz signed Executive Order 20-74, requiring everyone to wear face coverings. Paragraph 12 of the order applies specifically to preschools and K-12 schools. While it requires masks in schools, it contains enough exemptions to make it more highly encouraged than mandatory. There is a long list of situations where temporary removal of masks is acceptable. The Department of Education has further defined these guidelines on page 6 of the MDH K-12 planning guidance

Face coverings need to cover the nose and mouth completely. However, it is important that they be comfortable — not be too tight or restrictive. This is not a replacement for but in addition to social distancing. Children will still be expected to keep a 6-foot distance when practical. Face shields may be used instead of masks for younger kids who can’t tolerate a mask or when wearing a mask is problematic, teachers when lecturing or when a face covering would impede direct support to students.

Types of allowable face coverings include:

    • Paper or disposable mask
    • Cloth face mask
    • Scarf
    • Bandanna
    • Religious face covering
July 9th Update – Parent Survey Results: The results from the Department of Education’s parent survey is in. You can all the details here. The big takeaway is that, of the parents who responded, over 50% reported a bad or very bad experience with distance learning. There was a disparity when it came to access to the internet and good communication. We’ll have to see what the DOE does with this information.

Will Minnesota Go Back to School this Year?

Nobody really knows. Currently, families are asked to be prepared for one of three plans for the the coming school year. In short, maybe kids will go back to school; maybe they won’t; maybe it will be something in between. A decision on the back to school plan is expected by the last week of July and will likely be one of these three scenarios:

  • Scenario 1: In-person learning for all students
  • Scenario 2: Hybrid learning with strict social distancing and capacity limits
  • Scenario 3: Distance learning only

In mid-June, the Department of Health released a 16-page planning guide that all public and charter schools must follow when creating their plan for return to school in the fall. 

My take, after reading the guidelines for schools is that the schools really want to get back to business in the fall. The second and third scenarios are more likely to be implemented on a case by case basis. I believe we can be optimistic about Minnesota getting back to school in the fall, but we should still prepare for the other two scenarios.

Download an Quick Education and Health Guidance Overview for Parents

To help parents know what to expect from the schools, the department of education has created this quick overview of the guidance schools are using when preparing for the upcoming 2020-21 school year. You can download the PDF in several languages: EnglishHmongSomali and Spanish.

What Will The Back to School Scenarios Look Like?

Scenario 1 – Minnesota Return to School In-Person For All Students

Under this scenario, all Minnesota children would return to their physical school buildings with plans in place for distancing. The schools will have models in place for creating as much space between students and teachers as is feasible during the day, but won’t be required to enforce a 6 foot space among grade school students. They would still be required to follow COVID-19 Prevention guidelines, including:

  • Accommodation for staff, students and families at higher risk
  • Allowing for physical distance of at least 6 feet whenever possible
    • Rearrange desks
    • Modify programs
  • Minimizing and creating consistency in staffing, volunteers and children participants, to limit interaction and minimize exposure – 10 to 25 for indoor activities, and keeping these groups together from day to day
    • Limit visitors and volunteers
    • Go virtual for guests when possible
    • Virtual or phone parent-teacher conferences
  • Attempt to limit the mixing of different groups
    • Stagger arrival and departure. (This will be interesting, because siblings would need to leave together, so it can’t be by class)
    • Stagger meal times for classes, cleaning between groups.
    • Stagger recess or offer distanced play areas for different groups
    • Use different entry points for different groups when possible
  • Have back-up staffing plans ready so teachers/staff can leave due to illness if necessary
  • Hold as many activities as possible outdoors
    • Serve meals outside when weather allows
  • Cancellation of any activities that can’t adhere to social distancing
  • Remove areas where staff / students tend to congregate
    • Exercise caution with use of drinking fountains. Encourage filling water bottles instead of drinking straight from the fountain when possible.
  • Reduce the number of children on buses and spreading them out to allow distance.
  • Avoid community supplies
    • Encourage kids to bring home lunches when possible
    • Don’t allow sharing of water bottles, food and other items
  • Promote healthy etiquette
    • Face coverings for staff members and for kids who can reliably handle this themselves (so probably not kindergartners)
    • Teach and reinforce frequent hand washing and have hand sanitizer available
    • Teach the importance of not touching faces
    • Covering mouth and nose with a tissue when sneezing or coughing
    • Daily health checks and parent education for monitoring symptoms
    • Encourage daily temperature checks at home

Meals outside when possible?

Scenario 2 –  Hybrid Minnesota Back to School Plan With Capacity Limits

This scenario will be used in any school or district where COVID-19 metrics have worsened or are worsening or for specific schools with clusters of cases. Under this plan, schools would limit the overall number of people in the school building or on buses to 50% maximum occupancy. It would still require the social distancing protocols above but also require the 6 foot separation at all times, reducing occupancy by more than 50% if necessary to maintain this distance. Schools would also be required to have plans in place for contactless pick-up/delivery of materials and meals for any students at home. School-age care would be provided for critical workers.

Scenario 3: Distance Learning Only

This plan could be statewide or just in areas where COVID-19 metrics have worsened significantly enough to require the suspension of in-person learning. This would be similar to what we all experienced this past spring, but hopefully with new insights from that forced experiment. Should this scenario happen, Gianna has gathered information for helping parents to make the best of the situation.

Minnesota Back to School

Click here for more information.

More Information Coming

As we get closer to the school year — late July/early August — we will receive more information from the Department of Education on topics including:

  • School supply lists
  • Transportation
  • No-cost school meals
  • Resources for you and your family

We will keep updating as new information comes in.

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