Minnesota kids prepare for new school year with fewer COVID precautions

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The final hours of summer vacation ticked away on Labor Day with families packing Minneapolis parks.

“I’m really excited because it will be my last year until I go to middle school,” said Ari Tegels, who is going into fifth grade. “It’s going to be really fun.”

She joined her friend, fourth grader Emerson Lachapelle, at the Lake Nokomis playground.

Emerson said he felt “pretty excited” heading back to school, especially to see his friends and do coding. He encouraged other children to “be optimistic” as they head back to the classroom.

They’re preparing to start another school year with COVID-19 cases present. Much of the state currently has low transmission levels.

“It was getting better last year and I think it’s almost back to normal now, so I’m glad my last year is just about back to normal,” Ari said.

Their mothers watched on as they played on the jungle gym.

Other parents shared their optimism.

“I’m happy for my kid starting kindergarten this year that she gets to experience a little more of a normal kindergarten experience,” said Megan Omdal, who also has a second grader attending Hope Academy. “Their school was very careful in the early days and I was really thankful for that.”

In April, Hope Academy lifted its mask mandate but still encourages students to wear face coverings inside the school building, on school grounds and on transportation vehicles.

“We’re kind of starting where we left off,” Omdal said. “We’ll keep our kids home if they’re sick, but I’m not feeling worried about it.”

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St. Paul Public Schools students will have the option of masking as the new school year starts due to low community transmission levels in Ramsey County. According to the district’s plan, masks will be required if the level of transmission changes to high.

Regardless of the level of transmission, SPPS recommends masks for people who are unvaccinated, those who are immunocompromised, students who have completed their five-day isolation period after testing positive for COVID-19, and those with family members who have COVID-19.

Minneapolis Public Schools will also be leaning on community transmission levels to determine its approach to masks. At high levels of transmission, masks will be recommended and the district will meet with the Environmental Health and Safety Labor Management Committee to determine whether stricter rules are necessary.

“We’re all fully vaccinated and we keep up with our booster,” said Jeremy Chacon, who has two elementary-aged children who attend MPS. “We’re going to be looking forward to getting our new boosters soon and so we’re just kind of taking it as it is.”

He added, “When the numbers get back up, we as a family will often mask for a period of time. We have to roll with this as a society.”