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SPPS won't shift entire district to distance learning

In a message to families, Saint Paul Public Schools outlined a plan to move individual schools to virtual learning if they hit established COVID thresholds.

ST PAUL, Minn. — Hours after St. Paul students staged a walkout to protest how the district is handling the latest COVID-19 outbreak, Saint Paul Public Schools announced it won't transition all buildings to distance learning.

Instead, the district says it will use a new metric to determine if and when individual schools should make the switch.

In a message sent Wednesday SPPS said families will be notified if on a given day a school has 25% or more of classroom teachers absent. If that rate is expected to continue for more than three days, the school will temporarily shift to virtual learning.

The district said other staffing shortages could also prompt an "immediate shift" to virtual learning, and that families will be given as much notice as possible.

Tuesday morning, SPPS student organizers Jerome Treadwell (also with Minnesota Teen Activists) and Angela Nguyen held a press conference to outline what they called a list of student demands for the district.

One of those demands called on the Saint Paul Federation of Educators to create a metric for shifting to remote learning that takes into account transportation availability, staffing and substitute numbers and COVID-19 positive cases at the site

The student demands also called for more KN95 masks in schools, additional PCR and antigen testing and providing schools with  take-home COVID-19 tests to give to students exhibiting cold or flu symptoms.

Read more about those demands here.

"We hope that we are heard and we are seen," said Treadwell. "And if we are not heard or seen, we will continue to walk out. We will continue to involve local officials. We will continue to email and do phone banking and a plethora of things."

Following the press conference, students from across the district walked out of class to protest how the district is currently address COVID-19 in schools.

Currently, SPPS requires face masks for teachers, staff, students and visitors (ages 2 and older) in all district buildings, regardless of vaccine status.

On Jan. 14, the district also updated its quarantine guidelines based on new recommendations from the CDC. Effective Jan. 18, SPPS will maintain a 10-day isolation period for students who test positive for COVID-19. Students with symptoms that haven't been tested have to follow the SPPS COVID-19 Exclusion Decision Tree to determine when they can return to school.

People identified as close contacts to non-household members who have COVID are asked to follow new guidance with a reduced quarantine of 5 days.

Read more about the district's quarantine and isolation policies here.

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