Schools across Minnesota adjust amidst pandemic

Gov. Tim Walz holds student press summit


Used with permission Nikolas Liepins

Gov. Tim Walz held a press conference with 10 student journalist from across Minnesota Oct. 2. Walz was asked about hybrid learning, a COVID-19 vaccine and voter suppression.

Talia Lissauer

While current students are learning in unprecedented ways and trying to adjust to life during a pandemic, Gov. Tim Walz said it’s important for students to remember that they can contribute to the reshaping of the pandemic.

I hope that people in Minnesota are seeing that our young people are not preparing to live your lives — you are living your lives right now,” Walz said. “You are part of this response … and this will shape your life experience.“

Although districts across Minnesota are already returning to hybrid or in-person learning without a vaccine, Minnesota Department of Health infectious disease director Kris Ehresmann said Minnesota will look for federal guidance when determining how students and teachers will come into play when a vaccine is available. 

“The teachers are obviously a really important group both because of the role that schools play in our society and the importance of education, so we’ll look to see what the federal government tells us about that,” Ehresmann said.

Senior Sophie Yakes said she is disappointed that she will not have a traditional senior year, however, she said it’s important to take precautions like masks and practicing social distancing to ensure the safety of everyone.

“Returning with masks is the safest thing to do and all the other things of course. It’s a little disappointing because at least for all the seniors, we would really appreciate having a normal senior year and being able to do all the fun stuff that we would normally be able to do,” Yakes said. “But we have to do what we have to do to make sure that everybody remains safe.”

When it comes to getting students back into schools, it is important for everyone to understand that what has been normal in the past is not normal in 2020, according to deputy commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Education Heather Mueller.

“The 2020-2021 school year is not the same as every other school year. Each of you are experiencing it vastly differently, and quite frankly, as adults, we’ve never experienced it the way you’re experiencing it now,” Mueller said.

While Yakes believes it is safest to wait for a vaccine before returning to school, she said beginning to transition to a hybrid model may be best for educational purposes.

“Starting to do some hybrid (school) and looking at different schools and seeing what they’re doing and how their results are looking,” Yakes said. “The safest possible thing to do would be (to) wait for a vaccine, but that doesn’t seem realistic with how people learn.”

In order to ensure COVID-19 stays out of schools, Ehresmann said she believes schools will not get to a point this year where masks will not be necessary. 

“I don’t know that this year is going to be coming back without masks,” Ehresmann said. “Not only do we want it to be eradicated in our schools so that you can come back, but we also have to keep it out.” 

Although students may be tempted to focus on the future, Walz said he wants students to understand that the experiences they are gaining right now will have an effect on the rest of their lives. 

”We should take away from this as you are going to come out of your high school experience and this year with experiences that no one else has ever had,” Walz said.