Gov. Walz, Education Commissioner visit Rochester elementary school

[anvplayer video=”5054765″ station=”998128″]

(ABC 6 News) – Gov. Tim Walz visited Jefferson Elementary in Rochester Wednesday morning to encourage Minnesotans 12 and older to get vaccinated as kids head back to school and to highlight how important in-person learning is.

Walz and Minnesota Dept. of Education Commissioner, Dr. Heather Mueller, met with Rochester Public Schools Interim Superintendent, Kent Pekel, and Jefferson Elementary School Principal, Heather Klavetter.

"I’m incredibly hopeful here, especially in Rochester, this community has one of the highest vaccination rates in the country and because of that what you can expect to see is you can see folks, and again I thank the school board for making hard choices, putting the mitigations in place to protect those who can’t get vaccinated and that is all these little ones," Walz said.

Walz says our students need to be in school but we need to do it safely by prioritizing the safety, health and wellness of the students, staff and families across Minneosta.

"There are academic components, there are mental health components, and the social, emotional needs of our students are a priority. And that when they walk into this building, we’re not only feeding their academics and their learning, but we are also feeding them in their nutrition, we are feeding them in their social-emotional health and well-being," Dr. Heather Mueller said.

Walz adds that flexibility will need to be happening this school year.

"COVID is much on everybody’s minds, masks are on people’s minds, but I just want to say here in Rochester we’re committed to doing all of those things and we’ve had great support from the state, but we’re also going to keep the main thing the main thing which is the education of our kids. And we’re going to keep our schools open and safe all year," Supt. Pekel said.

Rochester Public Schools is requiring masks this year as a part of its ‘Safe & Open Schools Plan.’

"I am really, very proud of our local school board for mandating masks in school," Rep. Tina Liebling said.

"This is what the last year and a half have been so hard about and many of you asked me a year ago when we get through this thing, ‘what was I most looking forward to?’ And my answer immediately then as it is now is smiling faces in a school where kids should be," Walz said.

Walz also stressed that everyone who can get vaccinated should get vaccinated, especially as we wait for vaccines to become available to those under 12 years old.