ST PAUL, Minn. — Governor Tim Walz announced Thursday that he is keeping schools across Minnesota closed for the remainder of the academic year.
Minnesota students have been in "distance learning" since mid-March when Walz issued his Stay at Home order. That distance learning was scheduled to remain in effect until May 4, but on Thursday Walz announced that it will continue through the end of the school year.
“As a former teacher, this is a heartbreaking decision,” Governor Walz said in a release. “I am sorry for all of our students who will miss out on graduations, tournaments, and end of year celebrations. While I recognize distance learning is a challenge for many families, it is critical to social distancing in Minnesota and supports the health of Minnesota’s families. We will continue looking for ways to improve the current system and better support our children.”
The move impacted nearly 900,000 students and their families.
Walz addressed graduating seniors at a Thursday news conference, saying they will always be the class of 2020.
"You will not be defined by staying home and missing proms and missing graduations," Walz said. "You will be defined by understanding how interconnected our world is and what it means to come together and try and solve hard problems."
Following the governor's announcement, the Minnesota State High School League also announced that all spring athletics and activities are officially canceled for the remainder of the school year.
The governor has not been shy about his doubts on whether it's wise for students to return to schools. On Monday he told reporters he wasn't "super optimistic" about sports starting up again anytime soon because of the close contact involved.
"I think the things we miss the most are gonna be some of the hardest to get started again," he said.
Walz also announced Thursday a plan for up to 100,000 workers to safely return to their jobs as he outlined the beginnings of a plan to gradually reopen Minnesota.
Those non-critical sectors that qualify to potentially reopen are listed in an executive order Walz issued Thursday. They include industrial, manufacturing and office settings. Walz said that about 80,000 to 100,000 workers will be able to return to work on Monday, April 27.
Prior to loosening restrictions for a given setting, businesses must:
- Create, share, and implement a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan that sets out the actions they are taking to ensure social distancing, worker hygiene, and facility cleaning and disinfection necessary to keep workers safe
- Engage in health screening of employees and ensure that sick employees stay home
- Continue to work from home whenever possible
More information is available at mn.gov/deed/safework.
Walz said if testing shows the virus ramping up again, they may need to heighten restrictions once again.
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The state of Minnesota has set up a hotline for general questions about coronavirus at 651-201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903, available 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. There is also a data portal online at mn.gov/covid19.