As new school year begins, Walz celebrates students’ return to classrooms, aims to keep them there

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Tuesday was the first day of school for many students across Minnesota, including those in the state’s largest district, Anoka-Hennepin.

Gov. Tim Walz was in Blaine Tuesday morning to welcome some students back to the classroom.

For some students, it was their first time back in the classroom in over a year due to COVID-19 restrictions, and it still wasn’t a completely normal first day of school at University Avenue Elementary School.

Walz and Minnesota Department of Education Commissioner Heather Mueller talked about their two priorities for this school year: keeping students and staff healthy and safe, and making sure students can continue to learn in person.

"There are smart things we can do, like masking, there are smart things we can do, like making sure we are testing, and Minnesota’s robustness in that area is well-known," Walz said. "And what it does, it allows us to do the one thing that all of us want to see happen — our students in the classroom with their teachers, with their peers, with that support staff doing the things that kids want to do."

Mueller added, "We no longer have to be reactive. We were reactive in March of 2020 because we had no idea about what we were going to encounter and our schools were upended. We had no idea we would be in this position again where we are going to continue to be upending our classrooms but we can now be proactive."

With children under 12 years of age still unable to get vaccinated against COVID-19, Walz said it’s critical that Minnesotans who are eligible to get the vaccine do so.

As of Tuesday, the state’s vaccine data said 70.9% of Minnesotans 12 years of age and older had received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose.