COLD SPRING -- Minnesota state officials Thursday announced a plan to reopen schools this fall that gives districts the option to toggle between in-person and distance learning.

Governor Tim Walz says districts, armed with county public health data, will collaborate with the state Health and Education departments to determine whether fall classes will be in-person, online or a hybrid of the two. They’ll also have the ability to become more or less restrictive throughout the school year, depending on the virus.

ROCORI Superintendent Brad Kelvington says, right now, his district, made up of six schools and over 2,100 students, is undecided about what fall will look like.

“I think most parents and students are thinking they would love to be in school, back with their friends and their teachers,” Kelvington said. “There are some families that are nervous about that, and I appreciate (Governor Walz) and the health and education departments, asking us to make sure there’s an option for those kids as well.”

Kelvington says he approves of the state’s decision to turn decision-making over to individual districts.

“Of course it would be really easy if they just told us, but that’s not always what’s best for our students,” Kelvington says. “One thing that school boards, administrators and superintendents want is more control over local decisions. Now, we’re getting it. With that, there might be additional work, but this is what’s best for our students.”

The decision isn't being made in a vacuum; Kelvington says he’s been meeting with other Stearns County superintendents over video platform Zoom as the decision-making process continues.

“We all have uniqueness, but we all have similar goals,” he said. “It’s a really great collaborative group here.”

Kelvington says ROCORI administrators aim to have a fall learning plan in place by the district’s Aug. 10 school board meeting.

State officials have reserved the state’s right to step in if the coronavirus gets out of control in a particular district.

The Associated Press contributed to this story. 

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