Minneapolis school leaders answer questions from parents ahead of restart for in-person classes

Minneapolis leaders spoke with parents on Saturday before some students return to class next week. (FOX 9)

Minneapolis Public Schools hosted a virtual Q&A for parents on Saturday morning, as pre-kindergarten through second grade students are set to return to in-person classes next week. Third grade through fifth grade will also return on Feb. 22.

"I want to acknowledge that it is natural for staff and families to have some nervousness as we return to in-person learning," Superintendent Ed Graff said during Saturday’s meeting.

"After all, it’s been 11 months since we abruptly headed home because of the coronavirus."

With the nervousness came a barrage of questions.

"The questions are coming in fast and furious," Associate Superintendent LaShawn Ray commented. "We’ve got some good ones this morning."

"The amount of parent engagement has just been phenomenal," said Eric Moore, Senior Accountability, Research and Equity Officer.

Answers to the questions revealed just how different school will now look because of the pandemic.

"From how we enter and exit buildings safely, how to eat meals far enough apart to meet the health guidelines," superintendent Graff explained.

Parents asked the district administrators standard questions, like what school supplies students would need for their first day back.

"You don’t need to panic," Associate Superintendent Brian Zambreno assured them. "Schools have been provided with basic school supplies, so things such as pencils, folders, notebooks, pencil sharpeners, crayons, other materials that your child might need."

Parents also wanted to know whether in-person classes on Monday were still on, despite a forecasted high of just three degrees. The district says it will update parents by mid-afternoon Sunday.

"We’re watching the weather very closely, almost hour-by-hour as we approach Monday morning," Senior Operating Officer Karen DeVet said.

"There is a need to come back from a data perspective because what we’re seeing is that our gaps are growing," Eric Moore said. "What we’re seeing is that learning loss is more significant for students of color, more significant for students with special needs."

The Superintendent says about 60% of families, or around 8,000 students, are choosing in-person instruction. If a COVID-19 case is discovered in a classroom, all other students will either be deemed a close contact or a low risk. Then, on a case-to-case basis, they’ll either continue classes through distance learning or take some time off.

If in-person classes resume Monday, here’s what parents need to know:

  • Face masks are required (the district says students should just need one per day). The use of hand sanitizer is also recommended.
  • Students must keep three feet of physical distance from other students in their classroom cohort, and six feet of physical distance from others outside of their cohort.
  • Parents are to remain in their cars when dropping off students, and there will be staggered release times at the end of the day.
  • School bus windows will be partially opened (to allow for airflow), but the district promises to keep school bus heaters on high.
  • Ventilation in classrooms has been upgraded to meet or exceed standards set by state health officials.
  • Recess will continue (when the weather allows), and playgrounds will be cleaned routinely.