MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Many Minnesota school districts will spend the holiday break preparing again for in-person learning.

Gov. Tim Walz gave the green light for elementary schools to reopen on Jan. 18, 2021. But, for some families, the choice of going back to class won’t be an easy one. Some setbacks are putting parents in difficult positions.

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When we first met Chalisa Everson over the summer, you could already sense the exhaustion from the first six months of pandemic life. Four months later, the hair stylist and single mother is running on fumes.

Her daughter Averie has dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, and asthma. She’s spent the entire school year doing distance learning alongside her seventh grade brother.

While there is more structure in the Edina School District this year, it’s the social aspect that’s taking a toll.

“It’s so different when you have a child with learning challenges,” said Everson. “She will send the teacher 10-minute videos because she just wants to talk to somebody.”

“I think we’ve done a lot better than we did last spring and I think it’s still no match for in-person learning,” said David Law, Anoka-Hennepin School District Superintendent.

The social piece is perhaps the most measurable outcome so far, as also noted by Law.

“I have some notes from a fourth grade class from one of our elementary schools and kids are just saying ‘I miss my friends’,” said Law.

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He reminds parents to find avenues that still allow kids to connect with their peers even if it’s virtual, and to prioritize physical activity.

In Everson’s case, there have been long walks even as daylight is hard to come by. She also believes screen time is making it difficult for them to sleep like they once did.

But, returning to their buildings isn’t much of an option as any kind of COVID quarantine would mean lost income away from work in an industry already hit hard by the pandemic.

It’s why Law reminds parents to hang in there and listen to kids, no matter what the future holds.

“Time is the most important thing any parent can give their kids and know that there’s light at the end of the tunnel,” said Law.

School districts and charter schools are not required to report grading information to the state, so it remains to be seen what exactly distance learning has meant for Minnesota students, academically.

This week the state also announced getting special education students back to class as a priority and making a hybrid model also available to them.


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Liz Collin