MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — This week will mark the first day of school for many Minnesota kids.

Educators face the daunting task of trying to overcome the learning losses of the past two school years, and of course keeping kids and staff safe from COVID.

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A few districts around the state have already started classes and for some dealing with COVID has been tough. Albert Lea wrapped up its second week of school and there are already 66 positive COVID cases in the district, up from 36 the week before. Exposure has caused 290 kids to quarantine.

In the metro, St Paul Public Schools, which start Thursday, have imposed one of the few vaccine mandates in the state for teachers and staff. Staff who don’t get the vaccine will have to be tested regularly.

The district is requiring all students and staff to also wear masks. On top of that St. Paul schools, like just about every other school district, is trying to help students who have fallen behind. In 2018-2019 more than 80% of St. Paul’s 6th through 12th graders were passing. Last year, the passing percentage was just over 60%.

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St. Paul schools Superintendent Joe Gothard was a guest on WCCO Sunday Morning.

“We have to look at each student individually and work with them and their families and their support network to see where they are at with their learning and provide the amount of support necessary for them to move forward,” Gothard said.

The St. Paul Public Schools vaccine mandate officially begins Oct. 15. The district will not require proof of vaccination, instead there will be an honor system with staff having to fill out a form saying they have been vaccinated. The school district has close to 7,000 employees plus 1,500 contract workers, including bus driver who interact with students.

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You can watch WCCO Sunday Morning with Esme Murphy and Mike Augustyniak every Sunday at 6 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.