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Walz’ safe learning plan aims to bring secondary students back to classroom by next month

Governor Tim Walz announces Safe Learning Plan updates

(FOX 47) -- The decision of whether to return to in-person learning still rests in the hands of local school districts in Minnesota. But, there is a change from the state.

On Feb. 22, middle or high schools can pick a hybrid or in-person learning model with mitigation strategies. The return to class date is set for March 8.

"So students, we're ready to go," Walz said. "We're going to get back in school folks, and we're going to do it safely."

Citing increased testing for teachers, continued administering of the COVID-19 vaccine and a lower positivity rate, Minnesota's governor believes in-person learning is now safe. He gives Minnesotans credit for making in-person learning a possibility.

"The sacrifices you made kept us under where we could have been," said Walz, referring to recent restrictions. "The sacrifices you made make sure that more people are going back to school, are going to stay in school and we're going to open our businesses and keep them open."

With many elementary students across the state in class at least a few days a week, the focus is getting secondary students back as well.

"My goal is to try the best we can to have five days a week for all of our schools and all our of students in a safe manner," Walz said. "That's the goal by March 8th. We can do this Minnesota."

The governor advises people should continue following health guidelines, even suggesting testing your student as a way to stop the spread.

"Now I want to caution folks. Variants and changes in behavior can have an impact on that but at this time, we're doing it,"Walz said.

He admits there is some risk and leaves parents the option to continue distance learning if they do not feel safe sending their child back to school.

Yet for those parents whose kids have returned to in-person learning, it has been a welcome relief.

"I will tell you that it is absolutely worth it to see the sparkle back in my girl when she comes home from school. It has changed everything for my family," said Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, mother of a 2nd grader.

The students are just as excited to be back.

"Nothing can replace the memories made with friends during high school," said Owatonna senior Lane Versteeg. "Although the end of my senior year may not be as traditional as I had hoped, I know that my grade will experience it in the most important way possible, together."

Getting kids back in school is another step towards getting life back to some form of normalcy.

"Let's get excited and see that and know we're doing it for our children," Walz said. "Every day can get a little bit better."

Minnesota Department of Education commissioner Heather Mueller admits not all schools will be going back to 5 days a week in-person learning by March 8th. However, the Safe Learning Plan provides a good start to getting most Minnesota students back to in-person learning in some format.

Alex Tejada

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