Concerns remain for distance learning as Minnesota schools stay closed

With brick and mortar schools now closed for the rest of the school year, districts will have to extend e-learning curriculums into at least June, and maybe longer.

The governor says some districts are doing great with distance learning, and others have work to do. But that has some parents and education advocates worried.

At Mendota Elementary School, like every school in the state, will remain dark, with classrooms empty for the rest of the year.

"Absolutely, not to have that closure is very, very disappointing," said teacher Emily Paper.

Paper is a school teacher and a mother who, while disappointed, still believes in the power of distance learning.

"We worked really hard to create lessons and activities that are engaging and where we can still proceed to move our children along," she said.

It's been an adjustment for parents, too.

“That first week wasn’t pretty, but after that I think we’ve done a good job,” said Sainu Owusu-Afriye, a parent.

She and her husband are working from home and working to help their three kids keep up with schoolwork.

“It’s hard for me because I do miss my friends, but it’s kind of the same because we do the same work at school,” said Anna Owusu-Afriyie.

In announcing his executive order, Governor Walz acknowledged some districts are giving students an incredible educational experience under challenging conditions while others are falling behind.

He promised the state is committed to doing better as everyone gets more comfortable with e-learning given no one truly knows when students and teachers will return to the classroom.

"We don’t need to put this type of pressure on families during this time," said Rashad Turner.

In the meantime, Rashad Turner, a Saint Paul father and community activist behind the Minnesota PARENT Union, is concerned about attendance policies and the potential for families who aren’t able to connect -- either because of the digital divide, a language barrier, or something else.

He’s asking state education officials to suspend any formal attendance requirements as e-learning is extended into at least June.

"We’re all struggling to make ends meet, figure out what life is going to be like and to get through each day," he said. "We don’t need to have the added pressure of education neglect cases from Child Protection."