Friends and neighbors,
Earlier this week, Gov. Walz announced that he will grant individual school districts the flexibility to reopen while factoring in their own unique circumstances. In addition, the guidance includes a “matrix” that will help guide future decision making on whether to adopt a hybrid model or distance learning should an outbreak occur.
The decision to empower local schools is the right one, and follows advice that we have been giving to him for weeks. However, the matrix is an unnecessary addition, and I would prefer the decision be left entirely to local districts who understand their communities better than the governor.
Covid is a serious matter, and it must be approached cautiously. We now know the characteristics of the virus, but the infection has not been experienced uniformly throughout the state; there are many areas that have very few cases.
There are a few important factors we must consider:
- Nine out of ten parents surveyed by Education Trust reported that they were worried about their child falling behind due to COVID-related closures.
- The Minnesota Department of Education released the results of a parent survey showing that 64% of Minnesotans say they feel comfortable sending their children back to school, and 95% of those parents want their children in the classroom full time.
- The American Association of Pediatrics has said, “The AAP strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with the goal of having students physically present in school. The importance of in-person learning is well-documented, and there is already evidence of the negative impacts on children because of school closures in the spring of 2020.”
- The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Robert Redfield, has said, “I’m of the point of view as a public health leader in this nation, that having the schools actually closed is a greater public health threat to the children than having the schools reopen.”
Given that information, it is clear that our goal should be to get students back into classrooms with their teachers, while making safety the highest priority. A one-size-fits-all policy is rarely the right answer in education, and that is especially true in this case. Local school officials and parents understand their own unique circumstances better than the governor; I am pleased that Gov. Walz appears to be granting schools the flexibility to come up with a reopening plan that works for their individual districts.
Although many of us urged the governor to address the opening of schools weeks ago, his decision at this late stage may create confusion on the part of parents.
If you have any questions about the governor’s decision or any other legislative issue, please reach out to my office any time at (651) 296-2159 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.