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Walz announces temporary closure of Minnesota K-12 public schools

Mar 15, 2020 06:40AM ● By Editor
Gov. Tim Walz (right) speaks Sunday during a press conference announcing the closure of K-12 schools by Wednesday and then remain closed through March 27 in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 as Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker (left) listens. 
Photo: Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News

From Minnesota Public Radio News - March 15, 2020

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced Sunday that he is ordering K-12 public schools across the state to close by Wednesday and remain closed through March 27 in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“My top priority as governor is the safety of Minnesotans. As a former teacher, and father of two teenage kids, I’m especially focused on the safety of our children,” Walz said in a news release. “I am ordering the temporary closure of schools so educators can make plans to provide a safe learning environment for all Minnesota students during this pandemic. Closing schools is never an easy decision, but we need to make sure we have plans in place to educate and feed our kids regardless of what’s to come.”

Walz and other state officials will speak at a 10 a.m. Sunday news conference.

A news release from Walz's office said his order allows “for school administrators and teachers to make long-term plans for the continuity of education and essential services during the COVID-19 pandemic.” It “requires schools to provide care for elementary-age children of health care professionals, first responders, and other emergency workers" so those individuals can stay on the job. It also "makes provisions for the continuity of mental health services and requires schools to continue providing meals to students in need."

The decision affects more than 850,000 K-12 students and more than 135,000 teachers and staff in public K-12 schools across the state. Some districts had already announced plans to close Monday and Tuesday.  The news comes as Minnesota's number of confirmed COVID-19 cases rose from 14 on Friday to 21 on Saturday.

State officials had grappled for days on whether to let classes proceed, as other states — including Wisconsin — called off school in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus. Walz had said it was a tough call because closing schools would create hardship for parents and take kids out of an environment where some depend on meals and daytime care.

There also were concerns such a move could draw down the number of available nurses and other professional medical staff who’d need to stay home with their kids if schools were shut.

To read the original story and see related COVID-19 reporting, follow this link to the MPR News website.

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