Minneapolis Public Schools announces plans to return to in-person learning

The logo of Minneapolis Public Schools on a district building.

Minneapolis Public Schools is announcing its plan for the district's elementary schools to return to in-person learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a message sent to parents Friday, MPS Superintendent Ed Graff said he will recommend his plan to the Board of Education at its meeting next Tuesday. The proposal would bring elementary staff back to school on Feb. 1. PreK through 2nd grade students would return the week of Feb. 8. Students in third through fifth grades would return on Feb. 22. Older students would stay in distance learning.

"We did not come to this decision lightly and it is not set in stone," said Graff in the letter. "If things take a turn for the worse, we will reassess."

Graff said parents would be able to choose for their student to remain in distance learning or to return to in-person learning five days a week. Families will soon receive more information on how to register for their learning model choice.

"Throughout we have erred on the side of health and safety and I absolutely think that is the right thing to have done," wrote Graff. "But with rates declining in Minneapolis, it is appropriate that we begin to think about and offer a dual path forward."

While MPS has offered some in-person support and afterschool tutoring, classes have been held through distance learning since the onset of the pandemic in March. Graff said many young students are "suffering" academically, emotionally and socially in distance learning.

"The longer some students remain in distance learning, the more difficult it will be for them to ever catch up and regain the almost one full year of learning that they have lost," wrote Graff.

Last month, Governor Tim Walz announced elementary schools will be allowed to return to in-person learning starting Jan. 18 under the updated Safe Learning Plan. School staff will be required to wear face shields and face masks. They will also have access to regular COVID-19 testing.

Some districts, such as Anoka-Hennepin Schools and St. Paul Public Schools, had already announced their transition plans last month.