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Local school districts implement MN governor's orders to shut down schools

Alice Keefe
Updated: March 15, 2020 08:28 PM
Created: March 15, 2020 04:47 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- Several local school districts in Southeast Minnesota implement Minnesota Governor Tim Walz's Executive Order 20-02, to shut down all schools statewide in response to stopping the spread of COVID-19 in communities.

Following Walz’s executive order to close schools across the state Sunday, Rochester Public Schools announced it will close this Wednesday until spring break is over on April 6.

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“This is much different than closing school because of a snow day or temperature. This is a much bigger decision,” Supt. Michael Muñoz said Sunday afternoon.

“All schools will be closed for students starting Wednesday, March 18,” Muñoz said.

The announcement did not come as a shock to parent Yasmin Kunze.

“The school closure was just a matter of when. We knew it was going to be inevitable, so even several weeks ago when things started ramping up outside of the U.S., my husband and I were thinking and planning and praying, okay, what’s the best thing to do if this happens? What are our options,” Kunze said.

She and her family are lucky.

Kunze works part-time and her husband has the option to work at home now that their three kids, ages four, seven and nine won’t have a classroom to go for the next three weeks, but she knows not every family has that sort of flexibility.

In the coming days, the district said it will work on figuring out how to provide childcare to some families.

“We’re also working on a plan to provide childcare for emergency workers who students are ages K through age 12 are enrolled in our district,” Muñoz said.

There are other questions the district is trying to answer too, like how to provide meals for students who rely on them, and how to keep kids learning if the governor extends the statewide school closure.

“We’re happy that that the governor has given us this two week time to have our staff in, and to really work out, to plan for worst-case scenario. Worst-case scenario is we could be closed for an extensive period of time,” Muñoz said.

It’s a challenge because not only do some students not have a laptop or iPad, but some don’t even have internet at home.

“You know, people say well it’s easy to just go distance-learning and technology, but not all of our families have access to technology or to Wi-Fi,” Muñoz said.

For Kunze and her family, that’s not an issue, but she does worry about other students and families.

“The most important thing is to be calm, and also to start being aware of the people around you, not just in terms of who’s sick, but this is the time now, more than ever, that we need to be a community in the turret sense of the word,” Kunze said.

In a letter, the district said if parents choose to keep their kids home Monday and Tuesday, it will be counted as an excused absence.

After spring break, the district will evaluate the situation and decide if in-person learning will resume, or if they’ll make the switch to distance-learning.

Gov. Walz is giving school districts the next week-and-a-half to come up with a plan to continue learning for students if schools stay closed.

RPS also announced that all after school activities, practices, events, and building rentals are canceled beginning March 18, until further notice. This includes all Community Education programs.

OTHER SCHOOL DISTRICT'S PLANS

Austin Public Schools:  District officials sent out a letter to families on Sunday stating that students and staff will report to school as normal on Monday and Tuesday, March 16 and 17. If families want to keep their children at home, this will be considered an excused absence. 

Officials also said that Regular Kids Korner will be available for registered participants on Monday and Tuesday. 

Students medications will have to be picked from schools by March 17. 

March 18 through March 27

Austin Public Schools will be closing schools for students from March 18 through March 27 and no instruction will be provided. Also, there will be no Regular Kids Korner as part of this emergency closure. 

Emergency child care will be provided to children ages 3-12 years old of healthcare professionals, first responders, and other emergency workers as directed by Gov. Walz's executive order. 

Qualifying families will receive information from the district.

March 23 to 27

APS is on Spring Break

Officials also say that all after school activities, practices, events, and building rentals (including Packer Dome) are canceled begining March 18, until further notice. This includes all Community Education programs. 

The Austin Community Recreation Teen Center will also be closed March 18 to 27.

Albert Lea Schools announced on Sunday that they will close schools starting on Monday, March 16, through Friday, March 27th.  Officials said, on Monday, March 30th, they will begin to implement an E-Learning plan for all students in Early Childhood through Grade 12.  They also said more information will be available on the distribution of Chromebook and iPads for students in grades K-5.  The school district is also developing a plan for the distribution of student meals. 

District officials also announced that all staff (licensed and non-licensed) have to report to their buildings Monday morning to meet with their principals at 8:00 a.m. to discuss our current situation, and develop plans for E-learning.

No student activities will be held this week.

Byron Public Schools says the closure for their district will start on Monday, March 16 and shared a detailed COVID-19 plan

·  No school for students and no activities/practices held, all Community Education classes, including preschool and ECFE, and all rentals canceled through March 27.

·  Throughout the closure breakfast and lunch will be provided per newly established processes starting March 17.

  • Parents must send an e-mail daily to pat.ronnenberg@byron.k12.mn.us by 10 a.m. the day before food pickup (example e-mail Monday for Tuesday pick up)
    • The e-mail should include the student's name/names and if both breakfast and lunch are needed
    • Pick up will be available at 9 a.m. at the Byron Intermediate School
    • E-mail is the preferred method. If e-mail is not available, please call 507-624-0309 by 10 a.m. the day before to talk with food service or leave a message

· Project Kids will be open 6 a.m. – 6 p.m. for existing PK families.  All students will be at the Primary School. Pre-registration is not required; bring your PK enrolled student/s and sign in.

March 18 – March 20

·  Project Kids open ONLY for Families of Emergency Workers and district staff 6 a.m. - 6 p.m.  Located at the Primary School

 March 23-27

·  Project Kids open ONLY for Families of Emergency Workers and district staff 6 a.m. - 6 p.m. - Located at the Primary School

Byron Public Schools officials say this plan will be reevaluated every day and subject to change.

School offices will remain open through Wednesday, March 18, to give families time to pick up their student’s medication and other personal items.  The district will be sending frequent updates with information and resources via email, the website, and social media channels.


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