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FAQ: School COVID Safety Procedures

Once we're ready to welcome students back into buildings, the following information outlines MPS' plan for how it will transition to safely providing students in-person learning. Since the beginning of the school year, we have been in Phase 2 which provides distance learning to all students full-time under the MPS 5 Phases to Safe Learning.

MPS is considering how it may transition from Phases 3 to 5, which is when schools open for in-person learningor in-person academic support.While no final decisions have been made about which students will return during each phase, planning scenarios are being developed so that services such as transportation can be determined. In the meantime,we know that staff and families have many questions about staying fully in distance learning or considering a return to teaching and learning.

See here for more information on the safety practices that are in place and a PDF version of the safety guide.

MPS has its school building readiness plan posted on our Returning to In-person Learning website. 

Moving to Phase 3 is currently one option under consideration. During Phase 3: “Hybrid Learning with In-Person, In-School Supports” we will provide facilitated in-person learning for students most in need of in-person academic support such as students in Special Education or in the early grades.

MPS’ decisions are guided by the Minnesota’s Safe Learning Plan for 2020-21 which states that:

  • If the number of positive cases per 10,000 people in Hennepin County is between 20-29 cases, a rotating hybrid model with social distancing is warranted.
  • If the case rate is between 10-19 per 10,000 people, in-person learning for elementary students is allowed and social distancing is not required, though many public health protocols will continue, such as wearing face coverings.

Based on the factors summarized in our MPS COVID-19 Dashboard, MPS has not relied solely on the State guidelines. We have broadened decision-making criteria to include such factors as  the number of available staff, availability of personal protective equipment (PPE), and families’ feedback.

Factors include the number of available staff, availability of personal protective equipment (PPE), and families’ preference with returning to in-person learning.

To help us decide which in-person learning format is preferred, MPS has been surveying families to see what their level of comfort is in sending students to school either full time, in person or a hybrid of in-person and distance learning.

All students will have the opportunity to opt into either in-person or distance learning. More details on these options will be sent to families from their schools.

Between school staff and district staff, we are committed to reaching out to families in multiple ways to ensure we connect with as many families as possible. The survey has been sent through text and MPS always translates important information such as surveys (and this FAQ) in our four major languages: English, Hmong, Somali and Spanish.

How big classes will be depends on what format we return in, which could be fully in-person for some grades or a rotating hybrid model where certain grades attend school in person some days of the week and then do distance learning when not in a school building. It will also depend on how many students prefer to stay with distance learning full time and the available space in a particular school.

Several safety precautions are being put in place to make schools as safe as possible for in-person learning:

  • Staff providing direct student support services will wear additional personal protective equipment per current Minnesota Department of Health guidelines. 
  • Staff will build a routine with their students to regularly practice good hygiene.
  • There will be daily and frequent cleaning of high-touch surfaces throughout the day.
  • Hand sanitizer stations will be installed at designated entrances and available in all classrooms.
  • In a rotating hybrid model, multi-stall bathroom capacity will be reduced by 50% just like the school building occupancy.
  • Nonessential visitors, volunteers and external groups will continue to have only limited, if any, access to school buildings.
  • No large gatherings or activities will be allowed if social distancing is not possible.
  • Schools will continually remind students and staff to assess their health each day and ask that they stay home if they feel unwell or have any signs of illness.

According to Minnesota's Safe Learning Plan for 2020-21, social distancing is not required for a full-time, in-person learning format, but other safety measures such as face coverings and disinfecting spaces and surfaces would continue.

Social distancing is only required when schools decide on a rotating hybrid schedule. In that case, classroom sizes are reduced to half capacity (50%) to allow for 6 feet of social distancing. Should a school building be unable to house their full enrollment at 50%, media centers, lunchrooms and other common spaces may be used for additional classroom space.

Alternatively, excess space in other buildings may be made available. For a thorough list of the actions taken to welcome students back into our schools, please see our building readiness plan on the Welcome Back to School website. Details on busing and meals are covered in this plan.

MPS has ample supplies of face coverings for staff and students if they are unable to provide their own. Face coverings and face shields have been delivered to all school sites and are available at the main office.

If a staff member or family reports a positive case, our Health Services team consults the Minnesota Department of Health and our Regional Support team. Our Health Services staff assists those teams with contact mapping, as needed. Our Health Services Team or the Minnesota Department of Health follows up directly with anyone in our school system who has had a high-risk exposure to provide them with health information and next steps. A letter is sent to others in the school system who are in a low-risk health category. The building is thoroughly disinfected.

Like any other illness, and in accordance with MPS' Attendance Policy 5100A, a student who misses school because of COVID-19 will have an excused absence and be allowed to makeup schoolwork. A student who is quarantined or has been diagnosed with COVID-19, but is healthy enough to participate in lessons may participate in distance learning no matter which phase of learning MPS is in. School staff will work with families to find alternative assignments that the student could complete online or through a paper format.

The Governor's Stay Safe MN Executive Order 20-74 is still in effect:Continue to work from home if possible. MPS staff are being called back on a rolling basis depending on their specific job function in an effort to minimize exposure across the district. As of the end of September, approximately 1,000 of our 7,000 employees were reporting to work onsite to support emergency child care, food services to our students and ongoing support for the district's operations during distance learning.  We are carefully considering who is necessary to call back with the governor's executive order in mind.

In August, MPS hired an engineering firm to conduct an analysis of all building ventilation systems to determine if systems could meet the guidelines provided by the Minnesota Department of Health for indoor air considerations and ventilation guidance.

As a result of this analysis, MPS is upgrading filters to filter air at the highest level possible. MERV 14 filters will be used in ventilation systems that can support this filter upgrade. HEPA filtration units will be placed in classrooms where the ventilation systems cannot support the higher-rated MERV filters.

Ventilation systems will two hours before staff and students come to school and will remain operational for two hours after school so that classrooms, common spaces and offices can receive fresh, outside air.