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FAQ: Phase 5 - Returning to In-Person Learning

PreK - Grade 5 students will have the option to return to school buildings for in-person learning in February on dates as outlined below; the option for in-person learning also applies to students in High Five, Three School, and Early Childhood Special Education.

Students in grades 6-12, as well as Alphabet Soup and Early Childhood Family Education, will remain in distance learning at this time.

Please complete the 2020-21 In-Person/Distance Learning Registration Form for EACH OF YOUR STUDENTS in grades PreK-5 by Jan. 22, indicating your choice of in-person or distance learning for each child. Information on how we are keeping buildings safe is available here.

NOTE: February 1-5: PK-5 students do not have school to allow staff to get ready to welcome students back into buildings; students in grades 6-12 will continue with distance learning during Feb. 1-5.

Week of February 8:

  • PreK through grade 2 back to in-person learning (Phase 5)
  • Grades 3-12 and Transition Plus remain in distance learning (Phase 2)

Week of February 22:

  • Grades 3-5 to in-person learning (Phase 5)
  • Grades 6-12 and Transition Plus remain in distance learning (Phase 2; in planning for Phase 3)

Other Important Dates

Monday and Tuesday, February 8-9

  • PreK and K return to in-person at the site
  • Grades 1-2 are in distance Learning
  • Grades 3-5 are in distance Learning

Wednesday - Friday, February 10-12

  • PreK and K are in-person at the site
  • Grades 1-2 return to in-person at site
  • Grades 3-5 are in distance Learning

Monday, February 15

  • No School for staff and students, President's Day

Tuesday, February 16

  • No School for students, Parent Teacher Conferences
  • Staff are engaging in Parent Teacher Conferences

Wednesday-Friday, February 17-19

  • PreK-2 in-person on site
  • Grades 3-5 are in distance learning

Monday, February 22

  • PreK-2 In Person on site
  • Grades 3-5 in-person on site

The return of all students to in-person learning is dependent largely on continuing declines in COVID-19 infection rates, the proven effectiveness of current safety protocols such as face coverings, and the availability of enough staff to help ensure health and safety practices can be followed.

Below are frequently asked questions related to the return of PreK-5 students to in-person learning:

MPS is planning to return to the classroom with a critical eye, but in recognition of the following positive indicators:

  • Quickly declining infection rates in Minneapolis;
  • New virus information that indicates a lower risk for surface transmission;
  • New virus information that indicates transmission among children under 12 from student to student is less likely than with adults
  • The effective mitigation strategy of face coverings, even for the new, more infectious strain of COVID;
  • Successfully containing major outbreaks in our MPS childcare.

All these factors suggest a tolerable risk/benefit ratio that parents can weigh and decide upon. We want to allow people to make decisions based on their individual and very diverse family needs. Too many of our students, especially those receiving Special Education and English Learner services, need support and we have a responsibility to plan to move forward in this direction. We have said this repeatedly over the course of this pandemic.

If any of these indicators change significantly, our decision will be revisited. We can stop these plans immediately if necessary. We cannot, on the other hand, bring students back quickly without planning.

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.

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 classes. 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.

School districts have not received information on the vaccine schedule for teachers, a vaccination process that includes two injections over a period of time. We are trying to balance the very real needs of our youngest students along with the ability to remain safe through strict use of health and safety protocols until the vaccines are available.

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 school s and will stay on for two hours after school is closed. School building ventilation reports are available here.

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.

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 classes, 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 speciation 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 MPScalendar.


Guidance from the state recommends returning no more than three grade levels at a time. That same guidance recommends getting our youngest learners acclimated back at schools first.  Following that guidance, MPS will return elementary students as follows:

  • Grades PreK-Grade 2:Begin full-time In-person Learning the week of February 8 in Phase 5
  • Grades 3-5:Begin full-time In-person Learning the week of February 22
  • Grades 6-12 and Transition Plus: Continue in Phase 2 Distance Learning until further notice.
  • Students who choose in-person learning will attend school 5 days a week and will follow the school's regular schedule. There may be some adjustments to the daily schedule to accommodate for health/safety protocols, social emotional learning and academic opportunities.

    Students who choose distance learning will continue to follow their school's designated distance learning schedule. Schools will continue to provide learning resources and materials for students in distance learning.

    All students will receive standards-based instruction in the core areas of literacy and math, as well as engage with specialists during each day. There will be a strong emphasis on creating a welcoming environment, establishing rituals and routines as well as social emotional learning integration in the classroom.

    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.

    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.

    Devices should be brought back to school when the student begins in-person learning. Devices will remain at the school and are the student's assigned device for the duration of in-person learning. If the student has been sharing their device with an older sibling (grades 6-12),they will have access to a device at their school.

    The number of students in each classroom will depend on how many families decide to have their student return to in-person learning. The state has lifted the six feet of social distancing for children under age 12 at school; the recommendation is to now have students keep three feet of distance. However, six feet of social distancing should be maintained for adults. Classrooms will be set up to try and retain the recommended three feet of social distancing for students.

    We are starting in-person learning with our youngest students in accordance with the guidance provided by the Minnesota Departments of Health and Minnesota Departments of Education. For the most part, the return of all students to in-person learning is dependent on the availability of enough staff to help ensure health and safety practices can be followed. Once in-person learning is running smoothly for PreK-5 students, and MPS determines there is the right amount of staff, we hope to return more students to in-person learning and/or expand targeted support services.

    To the extent possible, classroom groups will be kept together. When multiple classroom groups are in the same space, six feet of social distancing will try to be maintained between classroom groups.

    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.

    When in-person learning for PreK-Grade 5 is available, Minneapolis Kids plans to resume its regular schedule of before- and after-school care and follow its regular and end times.Sites may be limited due to enrollment of students attending in person.

    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.

    Culinary and Wellness Services (CWS) site supervisors will work with each individual school administration beginning the week of January 11 to determine the logistics for meal service. Meal schedules will need to be established for each grade/class. Student meal times should be held in the classroom if six feet of physical distancing between students cannot be accommodated in the cafeteria and groups cannot be clearly separated within the cafeteria.

    If meals are eaten in common spaces, such as lunchrooms, six feet of social distancing will need to be maintained.

    It is allowable under the state guidance to remove your face covering while eating or drinking.

    In accordance with the Minnesota Department of Education, visitors and volunteers will not be allowed in schools.