Governor closes schools for the rest of the year

Walz applauded efforts of the state

Park+will+remain+closed+for+the+remainder+of+the+2019-2020+school+year%2C+according+to+Executive+Order+20-41+issued+by+Gov.+Walz.+The+last+day+of+school+for+Park+students+was+March+16.

Maggie Klaers

Park will remain closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year, according to Executive Order 20-41 issued by Gov. Walz. The last day of school for Park students was March 16.

After announcing school closures through May 4 earlier in April, Gov. Tim Walz announced in Executive Order 20-41 April 23 that schools will continue distance learning for the rest of the school year. However, Minnesota Commissioner of Education Mary Cathryn Ricker said the integrity of education will be maintained if further closures are necessary. 

“We asked our school communities to redesign that strong academic, that strong teaching and learning experience in a distance learning setting, meeting their academic needs, their social-emotional needs and recreating that safe and welcoming environment, no matter what space a student was in,” Ricker said. 

In response to Walz’s announcement of school closures, the Minnesota State High School League cancelled all spring sports and fine arts activities. This cancellation includes practices, tryouts, scrimmages, contests, competitions and post season tournaments.

Walz said he notes the disproportionate impact the pandemic and the government’s response have had on certain communities across the state.

“It’s exacerbated racial and economic disparities. That is just simply a fact. It has also exacerbated geographic disparities,” Walz said. “It’s something we’ve talked about in this state for a long time.”

Walz said the number of deaths and cases will continue to rise, but this is in part due to the increased testing capacity.

“The real critical piece is how many people’s lives can be saved and how well is our hospital system able to take it,” Walz said. “The question will be how many of them ended up in the hospital, and when they did was the care there for them.”

Although Walz said he hopes to reopen the state as soon as possible, it is essential that the process of returning to normal is done in a staggered and sustainable way that prevents a spike in infections and deaths. 

“We’re going to have to strike that balance to keep people healthy, safe and happy as best we can. It’s about maintaining the things that we know will bend that curve, keep people safe, but yet keep people functioning the way they need to. So we’re slowing the spread. We have to build immunity, but you’re not gonna eliminate this thing,” Walz said. 

To commemorate the historic nature of the pandemic, Walz also announced he would save the many letters he has received from the public with the Historic Society.

“The thread that runs through all of (the letters) is the hopefulness of Minnesotans and the belief that we can do things differently … The theme that keeps coming back to me in these letters and what I see in the data and the facts is Minnesota has handled this in a very Minnesotan way.” 

We’re going to have to strike that balance to keep people healthy, safe and happy as best we can. It’s about maintaining the things that we know will bend that curve, keep people safe, but yet keep people functioning the way they need to. So we’re slowing the spread. We have to build immunity, but you’re not gonna eliminate this thing.”

— Gov. Tim Walz

Though Walz had not made an official call regarding the operation of the Minnesota State Fair, the fair presents challenges with COVID-19 prevention. 

“I think it’d be very difficult to see a state fair operating and I don’t know how you social distance there,” Walz said. “One of the greatest parts of the state fairs is it’s super crowded, that you are elbow to elbow with your neighbors, that everywhere you go, you just talk to somebody.”

Walz said he is hearing from experts, educators, students and communities about closing schools in the summer and fall, and he hopes to have a decision as soon as possible.

“I don’t know yet what that’ll look like. I think you know there are potential game-changers in this both ways,” Walz said.

Walz spoke directly to the class of 2020, praising them for their maturity in adapting to the crisis, as many adults look back on these years as fond memories.

“You will forever be the class of 2020, you will not be defined by staying home missing prom and missing graduation, you will be defined by understanding how interconnected our world is and what it means to come together to try and solve hard problems,” Walz said. “I would venture to say that the closeness of the classes of 2020 will be much closer than any other that came before, this ties you together in a way that has not been ever seen.”