Minnesota school officials face decisions amid latest wave of COVID-19 cases

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Schools around Minnesota are facing tough choices during this latest wave of coronavirus cases.

Some have canceled classes, while other districts are switching to remote learning.

It’s an issue in Minnesota and throughout the country.

Already classes have been canceled for days in one of the nation’s largest districts.

Several districts made the call over the weekend to move classes back online, including Minneapolis Public Schools, Fridley Public Schools and Osseo Area Schools.

Minneapolis school officials say they made the decision because of the extreme wind chill Monday and a lack of bus drivers with the number of COVID-19 cases reported over the weekend. 

District and school buildings are closed to the public, and all after-school activities are canceled for the day.

Fridley school officials also made the decision to move to remote learning starting Monday because COVID-19 cases are impacting its ability to staff classrooms and buses.

Osseo Area Schools reported as many as a quarter of staff out at some buildings due to illness. The school district will start shifting classes online starting Tuesday, with a plan for students and teachers to return to the classroom on Jan. 24.

“With schools having as high as 25% of their staff members out, it is not possible to sustain ordinary, in-person operations for the short term,” Ossea Area Schools Superintendent Cory McIntyre said in a letter to families. “At present projections, our district runs a serious risk of basic services and student needs not being met in an in-person model.”

It’s a similar situation for students at two Robbinsdale schools this week.

As many districts are forced into remote learning, some experts are still saying in-person learning is possible. 

“The question is, can you still have school in the middle of a surge? And the answer is, you can,” Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, said. “Because if people are vaccinated, teachers should all be vaccinated and boosted. If people wear high-quality masks, even without those other upgrades which I would like to see, it still is safe for kids and teachers to be back in school.”

In Minnesota, schools are making decisions on the individual level based on what they’re seeing in their schools. 

As of now, Minneapolis students will be back in the classroom Tuesday.