By Erin Hassanzadeh

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Another round of new rules will kick in this weekend in the fight against COVID-19, including more big changes for Minnesota’s youngest students.

Distance learning has been challenging for Sydney Kivel’s 5-year-old daughter Layla. She goes to a Spanish immersion school in St. Paul, but her family isn’t fluent in Spanish.

“She’s been managing, we’ll say that,” Kivel said.

Layla’s grandfather retired early to stay home with her, while her mom and dad go to work.

“For me, I just feel like school is where my child needs to be right now,” Kivel said.

Kivel is excited about Gov. Tim Walz’s updated guidance, allowing in-person learning for early and elementary students starting as soon as Jan. 18. Staff will need to wear masks, face shields and get tested every other week. Students will gradually come back to buildings, with a maximum of three grades every two weeks.

First-grader Ruth Feyen says she can’t wait.

“I would be excited about having recess with my friends,” Ruth Feyen said.

The changes also impact her older brother, Graham, who can get back to hockey practice Jan. 4.

“I feel great about it. Getting back to sports would be awesome,” Graham Feyen said.

Ruth and Graham Feyen (credit: CBS)

Graham and Ruth’s dad, Matt Feyen, wishes practice could start sooner, but thinks games are a bad idea after they experienced a team outbreak following a tournament.

“I like the social idea of him getting back to sports first because it’s a smaller group,” Matt Feyen said.

He thinks going back to school will be good for Ruth.

“She really needs her friends,” Matt Feyen said.

Teachers’ union Education Minnesota says the plan to reopen will take time, adding that it’s workable, but only if safety measures are enforced and the community helps slow the spread.

Fourth-grade teacher Paige Frondell, who works at Glen Lake Elementary school in the Hopkins School District, understands the push to get back to the classroom. But after an earlier outbreak at her school, she worries.

“I think the timing makes me a little bit nervous, just because I feel like we haven’t totally gotten it under control here,” Frondell said. “I worry about my friends, my colleagues. I just want to make sure we’re keeping the health and safety of everyone in mind.”

Gov. Walz says the state has the experience, mitigation knowledge and resources to open schools now. He adds that children are less susceptible to serious illness, and that the increased testing will protect staff.

Erin Hassanzadeh