Distance learning begins Monday for Minnesota students

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Monday, students and families statewide will adjust to a new way of learning in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gov. Tim Walz ordered schools to close two weeks ago to allow educators time to create distance learning plans.

Some districts have been prepared for short-term distance learning as part of snow day preparations. However, many educators say this situation calls for a new set of plans.

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Distance learning is expected to be in place until at least May 4.

During the two weeks since Walz ordered schools to close, teachers have been preparing for an entire month of teaching without even seeing their students.

Preparations include online-learning, but some districts have also created content that doesn’t involve the Internet.

It has been a learning curve for everyone, even the parents who are now tasked with making sure kids stay on top of their work.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS connected with a parent and a principal at Elm Creek Elementary in Maple Grove as educators work to make sure students don’t miss a beat.

"Going from having sports every night, tournaments every weekend, and school to, like, nothing, it’s like, trying to find that balance is crazy," Randi Schirmers, parent of a fifth grader, said.

Beth Ness, principal of Elm Creek Elementary, said, "For our families who are in fourth and fifth, it’s one-to-one iPads. Our families who are in K-3, if they don’t have an older sibling, they also will get an iPad. And, of course spiral notebooks, school supplies that they need to do their work from home."

While some grades need more guidance than others, it can still be a daunting task.

Nyla Newton knows this firsthand; she’s a fourth-grade teacher at Tri-City United Montgomery, in Montgomery. Monday morning she held her first virtual-meeting to make sure things started well.

Newton is also a mother of two teenage boys– she had to prepare double, for her students and children. For parents and guardians who may feel lost, or concerned, about distance learning, Newton said to go with your gut.

“I think as parents we see what other parents are doing online, and we compare ourselves. And, it’s easy to make yourself think ‘oh my goodness I’m not doing it right.’ But trust your instincts, trust yourself,” she said.

Newton also said to reach out to other parents and to contact your school for help.

Education Minnesota also compiled information for the state’s ‘new-educators’ as we all try to make the best of this situation.

Walz said he’s been asked whether students will see their classrooms again this year. The response is that Minnesota’s COVID-19 situation changes daily and the answer may not be apparent until well into April.