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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen (R)

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Legislative Update from Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Dear Neighbors,

Before my time in the legislature, I spent several years on the local school board. Since being elected to serve in St. Paul, I have often served on the Education Policy or Education Finance committees. During this time, I have devoted a significant amount of time and energy to ensuring that every child in Minnesota has access to a world-class education.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on children, families, and educators as schools were forced closed by Governor Walz and school districts were required to provide “distance-learning” for students. 

The East Central MN Educational Cable Cooperative (ECMECC), a consortium of 14 school districts and a Technical and Community College in East Central Minnesotan, conducted a survey in late April and early May to understand the difficulties families might be having related to technology in distance learning. Results from the survey were largely negative as many parents detailed significant issues they had with internet speed and access, thus hindering the educational experience for their children. 

Putting aside the educational component, young people also rely on school to develop social skills and other valuable skills like learning how to work with peers on group projects. Failing to return students to school in the fall would delay important educational and social milestones for many.

To date, the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) has told school districts and charter schools to plan for three possible scenarios in the fall: 

  • All children return to school buildings and in-person classes.
  • No children return to school buildings for in-person classes. Instead, all students will engage in distance learning.
  • Employ a hybrid of these two options with both in-person classes and distance learning. 

Shockingly, MDE says they will not make a final decision until the third week of July on what school will look like in the fall.

Waiting until late July to decide on the coming academic year is impractical for school districts across the state. Schools need months, not weeks, to hire staff, register students, and prepare for the beginning of the school year. Delaying this decision will significantly hinder the educational experience for thousands of Minnesota students.

Remember, local school districts can make accommodations for students or staff that have serious health problems that could make them more susceptible to Covid-19. I trust local parents, staff, and superintendents to make the right decisions for their school district. This is why I supported local schools to conduct graduation ceremonies this spring in a safe way without a government one size fits all dictate from MDE and the governor.

Also, approximately 80% of deaths are in long-term care facilities and 19% with serious health problems. If you're healthy with a good immune system your chances of a severe case of COVID-19 are quite low and most students have a great immune system.

I will continue to advocate for a return to school this fall and am hopeful that MDE and Governor Walz will follow the data and make the right decision for students, families, and educators rather than following false computer models which they're currently doing

Have a great day,

Glenn 

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