School is out

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has made it official: The traditional school year is history.

At his almost daily COVID-19-related news conference Thursday, Walz announced that he will keep Minnesota schools closed for the rest of the 2019-20 academic year and extend distance learning  in an ongoing effort to distance Minnesotans from each other to help curb the spread of coronavirus.

Schools in Minnesota have been practicing distance learning since mid-March, when Walz issued his stay at home order (which he later extend to May 4). The date for Minnesota schools to close was March 18, but Tracy Area Public Schools, coming off its spring break, chose to close its doors on March 16. That means students at all Tracy schools haven’t been in school since March 11.

As part of his news conference Thursday, Walz addressed the Class of 2020 and how tough it is to see how their “rite of passage” has been taken from them. He said this year’s seniors will be defined, not by the class that had to stay home and miss prom and other functions, but by being the class that has a full understanding of how interconnect the world is and what it means to come together to try and solve problems.

“This is the year … you started thinking about the next phase of your lives, you started to see yourself … this is a rite of passage, that you are young adults and (had) your future laid out in front of you,” Walz said. “It feels like that’s been taken, and it has for you.”

Walz also tried to put somewhat of a positive spin on all that’s happened for this year’s seniors. He said heh closeness of the Class of 2020 will be much closer than any other that came before.

“This ties you together in a way that has not ever been seen,” he said. “I just want you to know that these decisions being made, they break our heart. And to the teachers out there, thank you for everything you’re doing.”

As of today (April 23) there have been 27 academic days and dozens of sporting events and other extra curricular events missed because of the pandemic. As of now, prom, scheduled for May 2, will be cancelled.

Minnesota has almost 900,000 public school and charter students in grades K-12. It is one of the last states to ordered a closure of schools for the rest of the school year.

In related news, the MSHSL on Thursday afternoon officially cancelled all spring sports.

The stay at home order is still in effect until May 4.

As he laid out his approach for gradually loosening restrictions on Minnesota businesses over time, Walz announced he will allow certain non-critical businesses to safely return to work. Developed in partnerships with hundreds of businesses, labor and worker organizations, and public health experts, this action will allow 80,000-100,000 Minnesotans to return to work in industrial, manufacturing, and office settings on Monday, April 27, a news release from the governor’s office said.