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FAQ: Returning to In-Person Learning


Because each case is unique, we will work with the Minneapolis Health Department to make the best decision about whether to close a school building and return students to distance learning from their homes. In most cases, a school can stay open due to our strict, daily cleaning and disinfection practices. Those identified as being in close contact with someone who tested positive will need to quarantine under the direction of the Minneapolis Health Department.

While it is rare that we would need to close an entire school due to a positive case of COVID, the school principal will notify families when and if the school building needs to be closed. If a school is closed, students will return to distance learning.  Due to confidentiality of medical information for all of our students and staff, families will not be told who has tested positive.

You can go to the online MPS COVID-19 Status Update for notice of which schools have had positive COVID tests identified.

Quarantining means keeping physically separate from others. If you have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, you should quarantine for 14 days. People with COVID-19 can infect others before they start to feel sick or may never have any symptoms of having COVID-19. This is why it’s important to quarantine as it provides time to see if you have gotten COVID-19.

By staying away from others, you can help protect them and slow the spread of the virus. While there are times when the quarantine time can be shorter, MPS will continue to require all students to quarantine the full 14 days. This timeframe is based on the advice of the Minneapolis Health Department and other health experts. Health experts also recommend that people in quarantine get tested 5-7 days after coming into contact with some with COVID-19; however, a negative test does not shorten the quarantine time.

Families with a student who is quarantining but is not ill should contact their school to make arrangements to participate in Distance Learning.

Everyone has the right to keep their medical condition confidential and MPS will not identify individuals who have tested positive for COVID. However, we highly encourage families to inform their school if their student has tested positive for COVID. MPS gets information every day from both the Minnesota Department of Health and the Minneapolis Health Department about positive cases in the MPS community.  If there is a concern that your student was exposed to someone who has tested positive with COVID, you will be notified with next steps.

Not at this time.

Face coverings will need to be worn at all times while students are in the school building, including during recess and physical education. Exceptions will be made for students who have a doctor’s note excluding them due to a medical condition or a disability. Face coverings can also be removed while eating or drinking, but must be worn at all other times.
Since face coverings are required in buildings across Minnesota as part of the Governor’s order, most students are already familiar with the routine of wearing one.  We appreciate partnering with our families to share with their students this new routine at school to prepare for their return to in-person learning. Our staff have videos and other strategies they will share with students to help them understand how to wear a face covering and why it is important to do so.

There will be a health services assistant at schools all day, every day. There is also a Licensed School Nurse assigned to support every school. Some of our schools even have additional health support based on the needs of the students at that school.  MPS has a long history of providing health services at every school.

Not at this time based on guidance from the Minnesota Department of Health. Temperature checks have not been found to be a reliable indicator of COVID-19.  We will ask families to do a wellness check of symptoms each day with their students before they come to school.  It is critical that students stay home if they are showing any symptoms.

No. COVID test results are only good for a moment in time so are an ineffective means of tracking health in a school population. A person can test negative this afternoon, then get symptoms that night or become infected later that day. That said, MPS will make testing available for staff through resources provided by the State of Minnesota every other week at all school sites.

Many families believe that their students learn better in-person. Gov. Walz, state health experts and declining infection rates indicate that going in-person can be done safely. 

The State of Minnesota and the Minneapolis Health Department are managing the vaccine rollout for MPS staff. MPS cannot provide or sponsor the vaccines. The state continues to prioritize vaccines for educators working in PreK-12th grade, community and adult education, child care, and other school-based staff and contractors. MPS is currently surveying staff to better understand what percentage of staff have been vaccinated.

All MPS air filters have been changed to the highest filtration rate possible, but with 26,000- filter heads in varied buildings and classrooms, it is impossible to share an air refresh rate for the entire district. Where possible, air filters were upgraded to the highest level possible (MERV 11 - 14 filters). HEPA filtration units were placed in classrooms where the ventilation systems cannot support MERV filters. To bring in fresh, outside air ventilation systems will run for two hours before schools and will stay on for two hours after school is closed.

Staff will be notified of the need to quarantine directly by the Minneapolis Health Department or their Supervisor might share the directive from the Minneapolis Health Department.  Students and families might hear from the Minneapolis Health Department or their school’s Health Services Team.
All students, staff and other people present in school buildings, and district offices or riding on school transportation vehicles are required to wear a face covering. If a student cannot wear a face covering due to a developmental, medical or behavioral health condition, students will need a doctor’s note to be excluded from wearing a face covering. However, families are encouraged to discuss their student’s situation with their  Licensed School Nurse or other health staff first to see if other arrangements can be made and to answer any questions they might have.
Plexiglas dividers have been provided for the main office where staff may end up interacting with community members/visitors. Portable, tabletop plastic tri-fold shields will be available to each staff member to use when providing small-group instruction or one-on-one instruction where 6 feet of social distancing cannot be maintained between the staff person and students.
Building Safety Teams should consider making time in hallways as short and efficient as possible.  Strategies might include one way hallways, staggered passing times, and access to bathrooms only during times. The COVID-19 Program Coordinator and the Building Safety Team will work together to implement and monitor health and safety protocols. Any passing time should be limited to under 15 minutes as that is the time limit for a close contact. Students should be encouraged not to hang out in hallways or common areas without maintaining 6 feet of physical distancing.

It’s important to remember that a staff member may have a medical reason for not wearing a face covering. If you approach another staff member to ask them to wear their face covering, please do so with respect and politely remind them that everyone (unless they have a medical reason not to) is required to wear a face covering per the Governor’s orders to help protect everyone’s health. If the problem persists, please talk about the situation with your supervisor or your building’s COVID-19 Program Coordinator.

MPS will not monitor out-of-state travel by a staff member or a student; rather, the staff person or student should follow the quarantine procedures provided by the public health official or their health care provider.  They should always consult with a health provider or public health official to determine whether they need to quarantine.

On buses, seating will be arranged to maintain 6-feet of distance between the driver and all riders. The number of students on a bus will be continually monitored to create as much space as possible between riders. Seating will be assigned and documented to help with COVID contact tracing and daily ridership will be logged. Everyone on a bus (or other transportation vehicle) will be required to wear a face covering during the entire ride. Vehicles will be disinfected regularly with special attention to high-contact surfaces.

Given how the pandemic has exacerbated the existing industry-wide school driver shortage and current social distancing requirements requires more drivers, we can anticipate longer bus rides and a potential for more late arrivals at schools. 

One way we’re hoping to avoid these issues and create more space on our buses is by encouraging families who currently use the school bus to consider transporting their children themselves to free up some space on the bus for students who cannot provide their own transportation.

If they do, middle school families may be reimbursed for some of the cost of providing that transportation. Have them fill out the MPS Transportation Reimbursement Request to provide the name, address and school for each of the MPS students eligible for MPS transportation, but who they would transport to and from school. 

Reimbursement will be calculated using the federal rate of $.56 per mile for mileage to and from home to school each day, based on mileage indicated on Google Maps, for each child -- and families will receive checks for this amount monthly. For example, if a student’s home address is 2.5 miles from their school, they will receive $56 monthly: $0.56 (per mile) x 5 miles (home to school and back in a day) x 5 days x 4 weeks.

While having additional staff on school buses would be helpful, it is not be feasible for all buses. We know that some families will choose to remain in distance learning or provide their own transportation, which may reduce demand for transportation.. 

Transportation is also planning for additional loading time at bus stops and schools to provide drivers and students ample time to load and unload safety and to find their assigned seats. Where an IEP is required for a student on a school bus, Transportation will be reaching out to SEAs to see if they are interested in special ed bus duty.

At this time, Metro Transit is limited to 25% capacity on their buses. If the bus is at 25% capacity as it approaches a stop, anyone waiting for a bus will be asked to take the next bus arriving on the route. MPS is working with Metro Transit on route capacity due to high school students returning to in-person learning in an effort to address transportation capacity for high school students. Please plan for the possibility of slow commutes.

Students with IEPs will be supported through all the services that are outlined on their IEP. 

Students who transition to in-person learning could spend time in both general education and special education, depending on the student’s IEP.  There may be a change in who provides the services depending on available staff. Special education staff will work with students to teach health and safety protocols or wear additional protective wear for the protections of students and themselves.  Some special education services are so specialized, that the provider may travel between buildings to see multiple students on the same day. These staff will only be able to visit two buildings a day, so some weeks these services might be in person and some weeks it could be on a virtual platform with special education classroom staff.

For more information about what distance learning or in-person learning would look like for your student, please contact the special education case manager.

The student’s IEP will outline which services will be provided in person and which will be during distance learning.  Students who spend time in both general education and special education will continue as outlined in their IEP.

Families can return their student to full distance learning at any time.  They should reach out to their student’s teacher to discuss that option.

No, in-person learning will be held five days a week according to the 2020-2021 MPS calendar.

In some cases, decisions about how to manage a situation cannot be made until we know how many students are actually planning on returning to. If a building has too many students registered to make social distancing possible, we will consider alternatives. But in the meantime, we must plan according to what  we know. Safety is, of course, paramount so we won’t knowingly put staff or students at risk.

  • Students will attend school in person Monday through Friday, according to the established District calendar for the SY20-21.  School schedules, virtual or in person, should follow MDE instructional requirements and all contractual agreements. 

  • In Person and Distance Learning schedules should be on the same bell schedule so teachers have the option to simultaneously teach courses.

  • Schools will consider additional time and flexibility for passing time in order to support the social distancing guidance for secondary students is 3 – 6 feet of social distancing, with a minimum of 3 feet being required while case data remains above 10 cases per 10,000 people in the City of Minneapolis. Adults are still required to maintain 6 feet of social distance.

At the same time, passing time will be limited to less than 15 minutes in order to reduce the chance of virus transmission.

  • Students will experience a consistent time for advisory or time/space for students to continue to build relationships with adults and to access academics and/or social emotional support.

  • Face coverings are required at all times except during meal times

  • Students may still have to participate in distance (virtual) learning (even if the student is in the school building) in situations where only one teacher holds the specialized license and is teaching in distance learning.

A student’s current teacher may change during the transition based on staffing availability. All teachers will be focused on identifying academic areas of strength and growth, and will tailor instruction to best meet each student’s needs whether through in-person or distance learning.
  • Students returning to in-person learning who have been using MPS technology for distance learning will bring their devices (including power cord and adapter) to school and back home each day.

  • Students who have been using personal technology during distance learning will have access to a device at school and that device will remain at school.

  • Students who have been using an MPS hotspot will keep their hotspots at home for school use to complete homework, etc.

  • Students should charge devices each night at home to ensure devices are ready for school each day. 

The number of students in each classroom will depend on how many families decide to have their student return to in-person learning. 

Students must maintain 6 feet of physical distance from one another throughout the school day whenever feasible; when 6 feet of distancing cannot be met, a minimum of 3 feet of physical distance between students must be maintained.

School staff and other adults in the building must maintain 6 feet of physical distance from students and one another whenever possible. For activities where 6 feet of physical distance cannot be maintained, consider utilizing a transparent, physical barrier (e.g., plexiglass) for additional protection.

Students may be in a classroom not usually used by their own teacher to allow for social distancing, or they may be with a teacher in another classroom who is supporting their classroom teacher.  

No, students will not lose their spots in their schools if they decide to stay in distance learning.

In-person learning days will be on the regular, full-day school schedule.

There will be school staff that are experts in mental health support at each school, such as social workers, school counselors, school psychologists, and school nurses.  Many of our schools also have partnerships with mental health agencies that can provide more intensive support to students at school, with parent permission.

On scheduled transition days for students, MPS website will have live and anytime activities posted for students grades 6-12.  

Students who come back to the classroom on March 22, have the week of March 15-19 off as these will be non-instructional days; students in grades PreK-5 will continue in whatever format of learning they currently participate; students in grades 6-12 who are returning to the classroom on either April 12 or 19 will continue with distance learning during this time.

Students who come back to the classroom on April 12 or April 19, have the week of March 29-April 2 off (April 2 being a teacher record-keeping day) as these will be non-instructional days; students in grades PreK-5 will continue in whatever format of learning they currently participate. 

All students and school-based staff have the week of April 5-9 off for spring break

We continue to plan on bringing back Community Ed, Youth Enrichment as well as our community partners as soon as it is safe and manageable to do so.

Summer school for PreK-12 will occur; however, the format (virtual or in person) will be decided as we monitor health and safety guidelines.

MPS in collaboration with the  Regional Support Team will continue to monitor Minneapolis’ COVID 19 rates. The city’s data will directly impact our high schools’ ability to safely plan in-person graduation, proms, and other special events.  Schools will be provided guidance at a later date regarding the planning of special events.

The Athletics Winter COVID preparedness guide can be found here. At this time, MPS continues to not allow spectators to athletic events, due to complicating factors. Additional staff is needed to operationalize a successful spectator event including additional engineering staff and opt in staff for other game functions such as security, ticket booths, etc.  Advance ticketing via electronic means would be required with spectator name, email, and/or phone number for contact mapping. Games will continue to be live streamed.

Meal schedules will need to be established for each grade/class.  It is strongly recommended that 6 feet of physical distance be maintained between students during meal times whenever possible. When 6 feet of physical distance cannot be maintained, schools must create as much space as possible between students.

If meal service needs to be held in the classroom, students or staff will get pre-plated meals from the cafeteria or designated pick up location and bring their food back to their classrooms to eat. It is likely a meal hybrid model will need to be implemented with some classes eating meals in the cafeteria and remaining in their classroom groups with 6 feet of social distance between groups.  

Plant Operations will provide additional custodial support for classrooms where meals are being eaten and building staff will assist in cleaning desks and tables. Trash containers will be positioned in hallways to support breakfast and lunch trash from classrooms, and liners changed after each meal period.room staff providing support for classroom meals will also support cleaning spills and desks after the meal period.

CWS will have breakfast ready to  be made available at a designated location(s), ideally as students enter the building, The actual locations for breakfast set up will be coordinated with the building administrator and CWS based on building safety protocol and available staffing. Students will pick up breakfast and take to the classroom to eat breakfast. 

Lunch will be served in disposable containers with no self-service options. Students will pick up their meal in the cafeteria and either eat in socially distanced groups in the cafeteria or return to their classrooms to eat lunch.

It is strongly recommended that schools develop and maintain small cohort groups of students that do not intermix for mealtimes, and that six feet of distance be maintained between student cohort groups as much as possible. 

Each school is required to maintain a seating chart for students eating meals in the cafeteria. Students should sit with the same group of students for every meal. This chart of student mealtime seating is required to support contact tracing in the event of an exposure.

Coronaviruses on surfaces and objects naturally die within hours to days. Warmer temperatures and exposure to sunlight will reduce the time the virus survives on surfaces and objects.

When possible,staff will limit the use of shared objects (e.g., gym or physical education equipment, art supplies, lab supplies, musical instruments, games, computers) or clean and disinfect between use.

Staff will discourage sharing of items that are difficult to clean or disinfect such as electronic devices, pens and pencils, classroom stapler, whiteboard markers and erasers, books, games, art supplies and other learning aids. Soft and porous materials, such as area rugs and seating, may be removed to reduce the challenges with cleaning and disinfecting them.

Students should handle their own papers.  Student work on paper should be handed into a centralized box and sit overnight before being handled by the teacher. Gloves should be worn by staff if they are handling papers that haven’t sat overnight. Gloves can be found on site or ordered by the COVID 19 program coordinator.


Staff will have access to Bioesque spray bottles and towels if items need to be sanitized between periods.

In some schools, principals will ask students to use their backpacks as their lockers, minimizing the items they bring to school to only that which is vitally required and not using their lockers.

In general, students should keep their belongings separated from others and bring only items essential to the school day with them to school. Access to learning materials through virtual platforms (e.g., e-books or digital handouts) may reduce the need to carry materials to-and-from school thus decreasing student need for locker storage during the school day. Teachers should review curriculum content or activities to determine what can be completed at school during in-person learning and does not require at-home materials. This may require shifts in instructional plans. 

Educators should be prepared to provide materials for students that do not have access to virtual learning platforms if they are missing their device. Ensure adequate supplies are available to students to minimize sharing of high-touch materials to the extent possible (e.g., assigning each student their own art supplies and equipment) or limit use of supplies and equipment to one group of students at a time and clean and disinfect between use.

Lockers, especially shared lockers, are frequently touched surfaces and should be cleaned and disinfected at least daily. Regular cleaning and disinfecting are key to limiting exposure to germs and maintaining a safe environment during the COVID-19 pandemic. Plant Operations will include lockers in the nightly vacant building disinfection. Students should be advised to wash hands and/or use hand sanitizer before and after accessing lockers or storage bins. 
In accordance with the Minnesota Department of Education, visitors and volunteers will not be allowed in schools.