MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Thousands of Minnesota children and educators are getting ready to head back to the classroom Monday.

St. Paul Public Schools will start bringing students back Monday beginning with pre-K through second grade. Minneapolis educators are also reporting to schools Monday in preparation for their youngest learners to return next week.

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Gov. Tim Walz has urged Minnesota schools to prioritize getting elementary students back into the classroom while following COVID-19 safe practices. Ciatlin Maly will return Monday to prepare to teach for the first time since March at Barton Open School.

“I’ll be setting up my classrooms, moving furniture around things that can’t be in there with sanitation that happens,” Maly said.

She’s excited to see her students, but wishes the district would wait until all teachers have been vaccinated.

Kaelynn Schultz of Spring Lake Park has felt both excitement and nervousness sending her 10-year-old back into school this month.

“It’s definitely an adjustment for the full five days being back, but I do think she’s happy,” Schultz said.

Minneapolis Public Schools educators are coming back to schools on Monday, but some may be able to continue teaching remotely. A court order Sunday sided with the teacher’s union to stop the district from refusing to accept accommodation requests. Those includes a doctor’s note and an application with the district.

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Greta Callahan is the teacher chapter president for the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers.

“You have the opportunity to go through the process of seeking an accommodation due to the fact you live with someone high risk as well,” Callahan said.

A spokesperson for Education Minnesota said that the district could still deny accommodations if staffing levels require it, and the union hopes to be part of those conversations. But the court order mentioned that 40% of students have chosen to continue distance learning, and that the district will likely still need teachers for remote learning.

Officials from Minneapolis Public Schools released this statement to WCCO Sunday night:

We were heartened to hear the judge confirm that she wants in-person learning to continue. Elementary school staff are coming back for a week of preparation beginning tomorrow, Feb. 1, and the first students return on Monday, Feb. 8.

We have said all along that it is our responsibility to continue planning for in-person learning so that when the time is right, we are able to act. Returning a large district to in-person learning is a complex, multifaceted effort and we will continue with our plans until and unless directed to do otherwise. We have made that commitment to our families and students.

We are confident in our decision to return to in-person learning, as is our state-mandated Regional COVID Support Team, because MPS has taken all the steps and more that health experts have recommended to prioritize the health and safety of our staff and students.

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We are going to continue working to provide the 8,000 Minneapolis families who requested it the same opportunity to return to the classroom available to many other students across the state.

Kate Raddatz