Minnesota elementary schools prepare for return to in-person learning

For months, school districts have relied on COVID-19 case rates by county to determine how students would be taught, but starting Jan. 18 the state says districts can choose to have elementary students to return to in-person learning.

Moving forward under the changes in Minnesota’s Safe Learning Plan announced Wednesday, districts can rely more on building-by-building COVID numbers and stricter safety measures.

Anoka Hennepin Schools Superintendent David Law says his district will be ready to go next month.

"The 19th our K through 2nd grade students will be back five days a week in-person learning and 3rd through 5th grade will still be in distance learning, but starting Feb 1, assuming the K-2 portion goes well, 3-5, actually K-5, will be in person five days a week," said Law.

Saint Paul Public Schools announced Thursday they also plan to reopen classrooms to younger students in a staggered approach.

"The plan calls for us to bring three grades back at a time with a two-week buffer in between the different stages of transition," said Dr. Joe Gothard, Saint Paul Public Schools superintendent.

For SPPS, pre-K through 2nd grade will go back full-time in-person on Feb. 1 and grades 3-5 will follow on Feb. 16.

The state is also requiring face masks and shields be worn together by all teachers and meals be served in classrooms. Free testing will also be offered in school for all staff every other week.

"I think if it puts staff minds at ease that they know they don’t have it or their colleagues don’t have it -- awesome," said Law.

Some parents and teachers told FOX 9 they are apprehensive about the changes, but other teachers say they’re trying to keep an open mind.

"We’ve been scared for so long it’s been panic at first, but as I kept hearing what he was saying I thought maybe this is an opportunity for us to get back to a better normal," said Diana Ortiz Hedges a fourth grade teacher with Minnetonka Public Schools.