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Parents react to Gov. Walz’s “Safe Learning Plan”

OLMSTED COUNTY, Minn. (FOX 47) -- The fate of the fall is now in the hands of school districts across Minnesota. Gov. Tim Walz announced his "Safe Learning Plan" Thursday afternoon.

"I think that is really nice because each area is different in Minnesota, each school district is different, each area that you live in is different," parent of six, Lindsay Gust said.

While what fall will look like is still up in the air, Gust knows what she'd like to see happen.

"For me personally, my children will be going to school as much as they can," Gust said.

Stephanie Whitehorn, with just two of her eight children left in school, has a different perspective.

"Personally, if they do decide to go full time in school, I don't think I'll have my daughter attend full time in school at this time," Whitehorn said. "I am immune compromised. So, that would be reason for it. I don't have much of an immune system, whereas my children probably can fight off germs or what have you, there is an opportunity that they would bring it home to me and I would be the one laid up at Saint Marys. So, I don't think that's a chance I want to take."

No matter the opinion, the two agree that going back to school comes with concerns and challenges.

"There's really not going to be a way where we are going to be able to ensure hand washing and mask washing with kids," Whitehorn said.

"For us right now, I feel comfortable and confident that at school we can do a good enough job of keeping those kids safe," Gust said. "It's amazing how quickly they pick up on the face masks and hand washing."

Distance learning also comes with its own struggles.

"I was working from home. My husband was working from home, trying to be the teacher, doing the distance learning," Gust said. "We had, at the time five doing some sort of distance learning. We had zoom meetings going on and running from one side of the house to the other side of the house. It was crazy."

Whitehorn had her own challenges when handling distance learning. Both she and her husband are essential workers. She says she was lucky enough to have older sons assist her 12-year-old with distance learning. Not everyone was as lucky.

"We also need to take into consideration of the children who have disparities. Who may not have access to online materials or have English at home, as a second language. I don't want those children to be left behind," Whitehorn said.

Most important is what's best for the kids.

"At the end of the day, it's about the kids. It's about the kids and getting the children through," Whitehorn said.

"Each family is truly unique and different," Gust said. "So you cannot model and just because it works for us to do something, it can't be a copy and paste for somebody else."

Rochester Public Schools plans to announce its own learning model during a school board meeting on Aug. 18. Until then, the district will be refining its model based on feedback from families.

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Beret Leone

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