ST. PAUL -- As many families near four months of remote work, homeschooling and canceled camps and activities due to the coronavirus pandemic, Minnesota lawmakers are weighing how and when to safely send children back to school.
On Friday, July 10, state House Education Committee Republican leads Reps. Ron Kresha, R-Little Falls, and Sondra Erickson, R-Princeton, said they plan to introduce a bill during next week's special session to give local officials and districts power over their own reopenings or remote learning plans -- as opposed to Gov. Tim Walz's administration calling the shots.
On a Friday virtual news conference, Kresha said Walz -- who plans to renew his coronavirus emergency powers next week -- has been "micromanaging" coronavirus response and regulations. Kresha said members of the executive branch "have their thumbs too heavily on the scale. They really need to focus on local control."
He said local officials, school superintendents and educators ultimately know their communities and students the best, and can work with county public health officials to determine the best way for students to learn come fall.
Erickson said students have missed their school environments, where they can learn and socialize, and not through a screen. She also said in making back-to-school plans, officials should be "careful that we don't put so much fear out there that children will return to some kind of learning under the guise of, 'Oh my goodness, I might get sick.'"
"We want to make sure that locals who know the status of COVID-19 in our areas will make that decision based on what is best for their students, without putting fear into their minds because that’s going to impede their learning," she said.
According to a survey conducted by the Minnesota Department of Education released Thursday, 64% of parents said they would feel comfortable sending their children back to school come fall. Less than 12% said they would not feel comfortable, citing public health concerns. Others were unsure.