Gov. Tim Walz said Thursday that schools will have the option of using distance learning or a hybrid of in-school instruction and remote learning for summer school this year.
With his declaration came an acknowledgment that many students have not been thriving under the remote approach.
“By slowly turning the dial for school settings this summer, we can better serve Minnesota’s students and families, and provide more opportunities for the in-person learning and social interactions that are critical for learning,” he said in a statement.
Walz made the move by executive order, and it came a day after the governor announced that many small businesses and retailers could begin opening their doors to customers on Monday.
St. Paul Public Schools, the state’s second-largest district, said it already planned to cancel all programming for students in preschool through grade eight — summer camps included — and to use distance learning only for high school students who need to make up credits or hone their English language skills.
About 17,000 students have attended summer school in recent years, Superintendent Joe Gothard said this month.
On Thursday, however, Kevin Burns, a district spokesman, said it was possible Walz’s order could spur a change in plans.
“We absolutely want to keep an open mind to other opportunities based on the guidelines,” he said.
Anoka-Hennepin, the state’s largest district, will continue with distance learning only for students in kindergarten through grade eight. High schoolers in need of credit recovery also will have distance learning for four weeks but then move to a hybrid program including some in-person programming for the final two weeks, Jim Skelly, a district spokesman, said.
Overall, the program will be smaller in scale.
“The district is in the process of notifying families now of the summer school availability,” he said. “The number of students in the program will need to be reduced and the details with technology access confirmed.”
A Minneapolis Public Schools spokeswoman could not be reached for comment.
The state first shifted to distance learning on March 30 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Walz announced later that the move would remain in effect through the current school year.
The new order allows for classroom instruction if schools comply with state Department of Health guidelines on masking, social distancing, personal hygiene, screening and cleaning. The order states that being able to attend school is especially important to students in communities with limited broadband access as well as those needing engagement and mental and physical health supports.
Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker said the state was well aware that many students struggled with distance learning.
“We are excited to be able to offer some in-person learning opportunities,” she said.