By Heather Brown

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — On Tuesday, Gov. Tim Walz said the state’s goal was to get as many students as possible back in to the classroom buildings in a safe way this fall.

He said the state would offer guidance on July 15. In the past, the governor said schools would know which scenario — all in person, all distance learning or hybrid — by the last week in July.

So, what are schools doing now to plan? Good Question.

According to Anoka-Hennepin Superintendent David Law, fall planning is what his district is spending half to three-quarters of its time on.

Like other districts WCCO talked with, Anoka-Hennepin schools have sent out surveys asking for feedback. They also have working groups of teachers, administrators and support staff to discuss plans for transportation to technology to lunch to substitute teachers.

“We have to be ready at any time to implement various scenarios within the guidelines that we’ve been given,” said Dr. Joe Gothard, superintendent of St. Paul Public Schools.

At Castle Elementary in Oakdale, there’s a small glimpse into what one of those scenarios might look like this fall. District 622 was one of 50 districts across the state to implement a hybrid summer school once the Minnesota Department of Education gave that as an option.

“It’s been absolutely amazing to see our kids in the building and see our teachers have that connection that’s been missing over the past few months,” said Tricia St. Michaels, District 622’s Director of Student Services.

District 622 brought in some of the its K-2 students to the building, while the third to fifth grade students are distance learning this summer. Inside Castle Elementary, teachers wear masks, desks are spread apart, water fountains are covered and tape marks spots where students can stand in line. Even the school bus seating it socially distanced.

“It’s giving us the opportunity to play through the scenarios and see what’s working well and see what we’d want to tweak to have things flow more smoothly this fall,” St. Michaels said.

At Forest Lake Schools, a working group of 30 meets once a week and then breaks off into groups. Their discussions, like many of the districts, include what would happen if someone in the class gets COVID-19, will lunch happen in the cafeteria or how can distance learning be improved.

Superintendent Law says his biggest concern is having enough teachers to be able to make a hybrid scenario work.

“We have nine or ten weeks and every new piece of information we get will help us,” Law said.

Heather Brown