Districts, Schools and Educators

Safe Learning Plan for the 2020-21 School Year

Minnesota public schools are following the guidance in Minnesota’s Safe Learning Plan to continue to educate students and keep communities healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic. Minnesota’s Safe Learning Plan was created at the request of Governor Tim Walz and Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan by the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).

Based on Minnesota’s growing understanding of the virus, we know that young kids are less susceptible to serious complications from COVID-19. We have also learned more about how to reduce the potential for spread in schools from successes in other settings. Additionally, Governor Tim Walz has prioritized educators and child care workers for the COVID-19 vaccine and has made COVID-19 testing easily accessible to school staff.

As a result, Minnesota’s Safe Learning Plan now allows all schools to provide hybrid or in-person learning to all students as long as schools take steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Each school will have a plan to keep educators, staff, students and families safe while providing hybrid or in-person learning. Schools are expected to communicate their plans directly to their school communities. Plans must be translated and communicated in written and oral languages based on the needs of each community.

Under Minnesota’s Safe Learning Plan, all public schools are expected to:

  • Keep students in small groups that stay together as much as possible during the school day.
  • Require students to wear cloth face coverings all day, including while in gym class.
  • Provide all school staff with cloth face coverings and face shields.
  • Require all school staff to wear cloth face coverings.
  • Prioritize school staff for COVID-19 testing every other week.
  • Clean the building daily and frequently clean high-touch surfaces throughout the day.
  • Limit non-essential visitors, including volunteers.
  • Monitor staff and students for illness.
  • Send staff and students home when they are showing symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Prevent large gatherings.
  • Follow MDH guidance on physical distancing:
  • For early learning and elementary schools only: Three feet of physical distancing or more between students is strongly recommended.
  • For middle and high schools only: Students must maintain six feet of physical distance from one another throughout the school day whenever feasible; when six feet of distancing cannot be met, a minimum of three feet of physical distance between students must be maintained.
  • When county-level data declines to a level that indicates full in-person learning for all students (equivalent range is 0 to less than 10 cases as a 14-day case rate per 10,000 people), schools will not be required to meet any specific minimum amount of physical distance between students in the classroom setting. However, schools must continue to create and encourage as much distancing as feasible between students during the day.

As of January 18, 2021, every elementary school across the state may choose to operate an in-person learning model as long as they follow the guidelines listed above to keep communities healthy.

As of February 22, 2021, every elementary school across the state may choose to operate an in-person learning model as long as they follow the guidelines listed above to keep communities healthy.

All public schools must continue to provide an option for distance learning to students who chose to continue to learn away from their classrooms due to the pandemic through the 2020-21 school year.

In the first version of Minnesota’s Safe Learning Plan released in July 2020, Governor Walz asked school districts and charter schools to be prepared for any situation that may arise during the COVID-19 pandemic. MDE has directed schools to prepare three learning models:

  • Scenario 1: In-person learning for all students
  • Scenario 2: Hybrid learning with strict social distancing and capacity limits
  • Scenario 3: Distance learning only

In addition, Governor Walz made $430 million available to school districts and charter schools to help them prepare for the 2020-21 school year. These funds can be used to cover operational costs (e.g., cleaning and screen supplies, technology, Wi-Fi, and mental health supports) and support to boost student, family, and educator support, such as digital training, tutors, translation services, and professional development.

Read the Family Guide to Minnesota’s Safe Learning Plan for the 2020-21 School Year (PDF). More information about learning models is available in Guidance for Families – Planning for the 2020-21 School Year.

COVID-19 Saliva Testing for Minnesota School Staff

All public schools providing in-person or hybrid learning must offer on-site testing to all staff that interact with students. This includes teachers, paraprofessionals, administrators, support staff, nutrition staff, bus drivers and more. The state of Minnesota is providing training and saliva test kits so that schools can conduct this testing. Training and supplies are available to nonpublic and tribal schools operating in-person or hybrid learning who wish to test their staff, as well. 

Statewide Learning Assessments

The priority of the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) is to protect the health and safety of students and staff during statewide tests. Each district and charter school has developed local health and safety precautions based on information provided by MDE and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).

School-age Care

Schools that remain in distance learning must continue to provide care for school-age children of workers who the governor says are “critical.” Please contact your child’s school to learn more about school-age care.

Free Meals for Kids App

Children under the age of 18 can get free food at schools and community buildings across Minnesota. You can find a location that is serving free meals by downloading a free app on your smartphone. Search “Free Meals for Kids” in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store to download it. The app will use your location to show you where the closest location providing food is and when it is open. The app was created by Hunger Impact Partners.

Information about COVID-19

More information about COVID-19 is on the Minnesota Department of Health website.

Questions about Minnesota’s Safe Learning Plan?

Contact your school
If you have questions or concerns about your student’s schoolwork, receiving meals, school-age care or other services provided through your school. Language assistance is available upon request.

Contact the Minnesota Department of Education
If you have questions about distance learning guidance for schools or concerns about schools. Language assistance is available upon request.

Family Activity Guide (PDF)

Resources for Families from Minnesota Children’s Cabinet (PDF)