MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — St. Paul Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Joe Gothard announced Thursday evening that he’s recommending to the school board that the St. Paul district will begin the school year with 100% distanced learning, joining Minneapolis in staying completely online at least to start the year.

Gothard said that the district has been working on scenarios for how to return to school this fall since May.

“There will be a successful reopening in our future, we just don’t know when today,” Gothard said. “In March, we didn’t know how long this would last, this being COVID-19, and here we are approaching August, and in many cases we’re still right where we were. Instead of blaming people, instead of saying it’s because of this, I’m saying to our community lets do better, St. Paul. Let’s do better, Minnesota, and let’s make sure we’re wearing masks, practicing hygiene, and practicing social distancing.”

He also said that the district is offering SPPS virtual learning, which families can choose for the entire school year should they wish. Details on how to register for that option will be announced at a later date.

“I want our families to know today that there is a safe choice at St. Paul Public Schools,” Gothard said.

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter III released the following statement:

“As communities across our state grapple with how to educate their children this fall, the health of our Saint Paul children, families, teachers, and school workers remains our top priority amid the ongoing uncertainty of this pandemic. I fully support our Saint Paul Public Schools starting this school year with distance learning.”

Anoka-Hennepin, the state’s largest district, has not yet made a decision and is asking for parents’ feedback.

On Thursday, Gov. Tim Walz announced that each local school district will have the authority to make a decision on which school-learning model to implement for the 2020-21 school year, with guidance from health officials.

Walz’s plan for Minnesotans is a matrix that will be the starting point for all schools. If, in the last 14 days, there are between zero to nine cases of COVID-19 per 10,000 county residents, a district is able to implement an in-person model. If there are 10-19 cases of COVID-19 per 10,000 people, in-person learning is allowed for elementary students, with hybrid learning for secondary students. As the number of cases rise per 10,000 residents rises, schools are able to change their model to more restrictive measures.

In March, Walz ordered all Minnesota public schools to close and transition to distance learning. When the summer began in June, public schools started to develop contingency plans for the 2020-21 school year.

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