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Gov. Walz signs Executive Order 20-02 temporarily closing MN K-12 public schools to students

Updated: March 15, 2020 06:55 PM

Governor Tim Walz signed Executive Order 20-02 Sunday, authorizing the temporary closure of Minnesota K-12 public schools to students.

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The Governor said the goal is to provide school administrators and teachers time to make long-term plans for the continuity of education and essential services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Schools will be closed to students Wednesday, March 18 through Friday, March 27. During this time, teachers and administrators will work with the Minnesota Department of Education and the Minnesota Department of Health to make long term plans.

Under Executive Order 20-02, schools will be required to provide care for elementary-age children of health care professionals, first responders, and other emergency workers during previously planned school days.

The Executive Order also makes provisions for the continuity of mental health services and requires schools to continue providing meals to students in need.

“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," Governor Walz said. “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.”

“There is nothing more important than the health, safety, and well-being of Minnesotans,” Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan said. “This decision was made with children and families in mind, as well as our educators, to best support our schools and educational system in the weeks and months ahead and make sure that we have a plan in place for our kids who rely on school for meals and other critical needs.”

House Republican education leaders Representatives Ron Kresha (R-Little Falls) and Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton) said, "We are fully supportive of the difficult decision to close Minnesota schools in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. This is a step that will have far-reaching consequences for hundreds of thousands of Minnesota families. While our focus remains on helping Minnesotans navigate this crisis, legislators stand ready to assist the administration with legislative changes that are needed to adjust school year or other requirements and mitigate the countless consequences an extended closure will have."

“No matter where we live or what we look like, we all want our kids to keep learning and growing through this difficult time,” said Denise Specht, president of Education Minnesota. “That can only happen if educators are given some time to use their training and experience to transform classroom lessons into distance learning. Gov. Walz is recognizing the complexity of the educators’ work with this preparedness period.”

The teachers union says the planning time will also give classroom educators and administrators time to figure how to provide vital services, including food, mental health services and other student supports, if public health officials recommend that schools close to staff and students for weeks or months this spring.

“Public schools play a complicated and crucial role in the smooth functioning of every community in the state,” Specht said.  She encouraged the members of the Minnesota Legislature to follow the governor’s advice to use the preparedness break to do their own work on the pandemic, including a bill that would require districts to pay their hourly workers if school buildings are closed. The bill, SF4369/HF4415, is similar to recent legislation mandating how districts pay their hourly employees on snow days.

The Governor advises  Minnesotans to continue following the Minnesota Department of Health’s community mitigation strategies during this temporary closure to prevent the spread of COVID-19 while students are not in school.

Copyright 2020 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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