Walz announces schools will remain closed through end of school year, MSHSL cancels spring activities

Gov. Tim Walz on Thursday announced schools will stay closed for the rest of this school year.

The governor originally ordered schools to close on March 18. When Walz then extended the state’s ‘stay at home’ order, school closures were also extended to May 4.

Distance learning will now continue through the end of the current 2019-2020 school year. However, the governor’s office said his administration will continue to pursue opportunities to expand technology for students, provide guidance for educators on how to best connect with students and support families.

"As a former teacher, this is a heartbreaking decision," Walz said. "I am sorry for all of our students who will miss out on graduations, tournaments, and end of year celebrations. While I recognize distance learning is a challenge for many families, it is critical to social distancing in Minnesota and supports the health of Minnesota’s families. We will continue looking for ways to improve the current system and better support our children."

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"Distance learning has created new challenges for all of us, but especially students of color, Native Americans, students in Greater Minnesota, students with disabilities, and low-income families, among others," Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan added. "Students are missing their friends and routines, and families are struggling to work while helping their young learners. We can and must do more to ensure that every child is receiving the education they deserve and we will always put the safety and well-being of our families first."

Walz also directly addressed the Class of 2020, telling students that they won’t be defined by staying home, missing prom, missing graduation or other events, but rather by seeing how interconnected our world is.

As for what will happen with schools in the fall, Walz said he doesn’t yet know and what happens in the coming months will help determine that. Minnesota Department of Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker added that the state is working with educators and getting feedback from families to help to determine what needs to change with distance learning to better serve students and families and how to make sure everyone has the necessary support.

Walz and Ricker also said they’re concerned about maintaining academic standards and know the effects of this period of distance learning will have lasting impacts. With that said, officials said they’re working to find ways to help students as best as they can given the situation.

The Minnesota State High School League also announced Thursday that all spring sports have been officially canceled.

The governor made the announcement during his daily afternoon briefing, at which time he also announced the state’s ‘stay at home’ order would remain in effect until May 4 with some additional restrictions being eased.

Walz also said certain non-critical businesses will now be allowed to safely return to work. In partnerships with hundreds of businesses, labor and worker organizations, and public health experts, 80,000-100,000 Minnesotans will be allowed to return to work in industrial, manufacturing and office settings on Monday.

Prior to loosening restrictions for a given setting, businesses must:

  • Create, share, and implement a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan that sets out the actions they are taking to ensure social distancing, worker hygiene, and facility cleaning and disinfection necessary to keep workers safe,
  • Engage in health screening of employees and ensure that sick employees stay home,
  • Continue to work from home whenever possible.

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