Some Minnesota students kick off school year with distance learning

What has always been done in person on the first day of school in years past was done virtually in Minneapolis this year as students are set to learn from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I just have to tell you fifth graders this will be a year unlike any other," said Minneapolis Schools Superintendent Ed Graff, speaking to a host of 5th graders online. "I am excited to say hello to you and wish you a good first day of school."

Students spent some class time on their first day learning about online expectations, something new when communicating using cameras and microphones via computers in their own home setting.

But they did also have a little time to get to know each other, sharing through screens.

"My name is Zion and one interesting thing about me is that I have three other brothers and sisters," said one student.

There were definitely kinks in the technology.

"Everybody is glitchy," a student explained, to which his instructor reaffirmed how well the students were doing with the new technology and new way to do school.

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The district says more than 18,000 devices and more than 2,000 hot spots have been distributed to help with distance learning.

"Our help tickets will be busy the next few weeks but this is not going to be going away, so we need to be finding ways to embrace it beyond just the school setting," Superintendent Graff stated.

State leaders say businesses will play a key roll in keeping schools healthy this year, and the state’s education commissioner had a big ask of employers on the COVID-19 health department call Tuesday afternoon.

"Here’s my message to businesses in our community, please be flexible and do whatever you can to support employees with school-age children as they will be navigating sometimes rapidly changing schedules this school year. Their need to stay home with a sick child will actually help keep our school communities healthier," Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker said.

Many more school districts around the state will start the school year via distance, hybrid or in-person learning later this week or next.