Minneapolis Public Schools, St. Paul Public Schools both intend to start school year with distance learning

Minneapolis Public Schools and St. Paul Public Schools both intend to start the school year with a distance learning model, according to announcements from each district's superintendent.

The decisions come on the heels of Governor Tim Walz's announcement for a Safe Learning Plan that allows school districts and charter schools to determine their learning models based on county health data. 

Thursday evening, SPPS Superintendent Joe Gothard announced he will be recommending that the district start the school year on September 8 with a fully distance learning model.

"We still have an unknown and the unknown for us is how safe are our schools," said Gothard.

The St. Paul Board of Education will soon be considering a resolution that would give Gothard more authority during the pandemic, which would allow him put his plan into place.

In a video posted online Thursday afternoon, MPS Superintendent Ed Graff says the district will start school on September 8 using the distance learning model with supports. Pre-K and kindergarten will start on September 10.

"To start the school year, we believe the safest format will be distance learning with some important supports," said Graff in the video.

Graff said all students will have a device and internet access and there will be more support and professional development for teachers, more live online classroom experiences and supports for students with special needs. The district will also make mental and emotional health supports more available to students as distance learning can be isolating.

"We're confident that this fall's experience with distance learning will be more rigorous, equitable and more structured," said Graff in the video.

MPS leaders will continue to review the infection rate, the effectiveness of the learning model, feedback from families and students, and staffing health and availability to determine whether to change to a different learning model. The video encouraged families to visit its back to school website that will be launched by August 5.

Anoka Hennepin Schools, the state’s largest school district has not made decision yet on its learning model. Superintendent David Law says it’s difficult because the districts spans two counties, which have different rates of COVID-19 cases.

“I think the frustration is our community thought at the end of the day I’d know about September and the reality is we’re not going to be able to make that decision for a few weeks until we know our county data that we’re going to be working with,” said Law.