MINNEAPOLIS — If schools make the decision to open, the state will require several safety measure in hopes of minimizing the impact of any cases.
- Maintaining 6 feet of social distancing
- Cleaning high-touch surfaces throughout the day
- Limiting nonessential visitors, volunteers, or groups
- Incorporating hygiene education and routines
- Eliminating large gatherings or activities that don't allow for social distancing
- Monitoring health of students and staff and excluding those with symptoms
Masks are also required for students and staff, but the state will provide them all with one cloth and three disposable masks in addition to whatever each district provides. The state will also provide face shields for every teacher.
"For our youngest learners, facemasks may not be appropriate (for teachers)," said Deputy Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Education, Dr. Heather Mueller. "When they are interacting with teachers we need to be able to see their faces, we need to be able to see their facial reactions. We need to see their smiles and it's developmentally appropriate."
The state also plans to provide teachers with at least one COVID saliva test kit.
"Because if there is a point in time that they realize there is a student sick in their classroom, or they are not feeling well, they would essentially do a saliva test," Mueller said. "They would seal that up, they would send it off and within 24-48 hours, they would have a response, and with that response also comes peace of mind."
But teachers say they still have plenty on their minds right now.
"I think there's a high degree of concern," said Rachel Steil, a teacher in Stillwater. She says she's happy that all grades and districts will have options to make the best decisions for students. But she is worried about what will happen after the inevitable case arises in a building or classroom.
"In a way I feel a little bit more confused than I did yesterday," Steil said. "I feel like we're going to end up in a place that's maybe better than a blanket decision but I think, as a teacher, we still have a lot of questions that have yet to be answered. As we're heading into August here in a few days, I think there are going to have to be some decisions made quickly to help teachers best prepare for fall."
State leaders say districts won't be making decisions alone when it comes to cases or outbreaks. Instead, each district will work with a regional response team that will help with decision making when problems arise. The state is also requesting $250 M in COVID emergency funds to help provide the supplies and supports required of local schools.