Bill to reopen schools provides no resources to help with pandemic

Legislation passed this week in the Minnesota Senate that would prohibit future governor’s from directly safeguarding schools and students during peacetime emergencies.

The bill provides no re-opening plans or resources for districts to use to keep students and staff safe. Although there have been seven special sessions in 2020, no hearings were held on school re-openings or other plans to help school districts with pandemic protocols or procedures. Additionally, this bill had no support from education groups from around the state.

This legislation would delete a provision in state law passed in 1951 that gives a governor authority to safeguard Minnesotans during emergencies including nuclear accidents and weather disasters. The bill would also preclude the governor from closing schools during snowstorms and blizzards.

Last spring, at the beginning of the pandemic, the governor closed schools to slow the spread of the virus, as did many states across the country. Last summer, the governor announced plans allowing schools to re-open based on individual county COVID-19 case rates. Earlier this month elementary schools opened their doors to in-person classes and secondary classrooms can re-open as soon as next week.

According to the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) there are currently 809 public schools in Minnesota that are fully in-person, 626 that are using a hybrid learning model, and 271 that are in distance learning. About 250 schools have been operating in-person for the entire year.

A video inaccurately claimed Governor Walz was mandating that all schools be closed. While the speaker in the video walked their statement back, the bill still moved forward for a vote. At a press conference before the vote, the bill’s author said that only schools that re-open should be rewarded with resources. 

The bill was just recently introduced in the House and no hearings have been scheduled. (SF 2)