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Governor extends distance learning through end of school year

 

April 24, 2020

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz today extended his order for all schools to engage in distance learning through the end of the school year, which means students will remain at home for their learning and extracurricular activities sponsored by the schools will not resume. He made the order as part of the state's ongoing response to the coronavirus pandemic. The full test of his order is below:

Emergency Executive Order 20-41

Authorizing and Directing the Commissioner of Education to Extend the

Distance Learning Period and Continue to Provide a Safe Learning

Environment for Minnesota’s Students

I, Tim Walz, Governor of the State of Minnesota, by the authority vested in me by the

Constitution and applicable statutes, issue the following Executive Order:

The COVID-19 pandemic presents an unprecedented challenge to our State. Minnesota has taken

proactive steps to ensure that we are ahead of the curve on COVID-19 prevention and response.

On March 13, 2020, I issued Executive Order 20-01 and declared a peacetime emergency

because this pandemic, an act of nature, threatens the lives of Minnesotans, and local resources

are inadequate to address the threat. On April 13, 2020, after notifying the Legislature, I issued

Executive Order 20-35, extending the peacetime emergency declared in Executive Order 20-01.

In Minnesota Statutes 2019, section 12.02, the Minnesota Legislature recognized the “existing

and increasing possibility of the occurrence of natural and other disasters of major size and

destructiveness” and conferred upon the Governor the emergency and disaster powers provided

in Chapter 12 to “ensure the preparations of this state will be adequate to deal with disasters,” to

“generally protect the public peace, health, and safety,” and to “preserve the lives and property of

the people of the state.” Pursuant to Minnesota Statutes 2019, section 12.21, subdivision 1, the

Governor has general authority to control the State’s emergency management as well as carry out

the provisions of Minnesota’s Emergency Management Act. Pursuant to subdivision 3 of that

same section, the Governor may “make, amend, and rescind the necessary orders and rules to

carry out the provisions” of Minnesota Statutes 2019, Chapter 12. When approved by the

Executive Council and filed in the Office of the Secretary of State, such orders and rules have the

force and effect of law during the pendency of a peacetime emergency. Any inconsistent rules or

ordinances of any agency or political subdivision of the State are suspended during the pendency

of the emergency.

On March 15, 2020, I issued Executive Order 20-02, directing schools to close to students and to

engage in a planning period (“Closure Period”). On March 25, 2020, I issued Executive Order

20-19, directing the Commissioner of Education (“Commissioner”) to implement a distance

learning period beginning on March 30, 2020 through May 4, 2020 (“Distance Learning

Period”). The Distance Learning Period allowed school staff to provide continuity of education

while also preserving the health, safety, and lives of students, their families, school staff, and the

public. All Minnesota public school facilities remain closed for typical in-school instruction but

remain open to provide meals to children. Schools also provide onsite care to school-aged

children of certain workers in critical sectors (“Eligible Children”) exempted under Executive

Order 20-20 and Executive Order 20-33, as supplemented by 20-38.

To preserve the health, safety, and lives of Minnesotans, it is necessary to extend the Distance

Learning Period for all Minnesota school districts and charter schools for the remainder of the

2019-2020 school calendar year (“Extended Distance Learning Period”). Although distance

learning is a critical component of our response to COVID-19, our Administration believes that

we can make improvements to reduce disparities in students’ experiences due to inequal access

to internet.

Schools are community hubs for children and families. As such, school closures put burdens on

children and families and disproportionately impact communities of color, as well as indigenous,

immigrant, and low-income families and communities. We thank school staff for their dedication

to students. I call on school districts and charter schools to continue to prioritize innovation and

direct outreach to students.

In addition to distance learning, schools must continue to ensure students receive daily meals and

provide other services virtually where possible, such as physical and mental health care supports.

Throughout the Distance Learning Period, the Minnesota Department of Education (“MDE”)

continually assessed the efficacy of the programming and services, issued additional guidance

when necessary, and determined a need for additional supports for our most underserved students

and families as well as students whose education may require limited on-site services. During the

Extended Distance Learning Period, I request that all state agencies partner with MDE and the

Children’s Cabinet to innovate in serving children, schools, and communities to meet the needs

of students. This is also a time for the public and private sectors to come together to prioritize the

needs of students.

In collaboration with the Minnesota Department of Health (“MDH”), the Center for Disease

Control and Prevention (“CDC”), and consistent with public health guidelines on masking, social

distancing, personal hygiene, screening, and cleaning practices (“Public Health Guidelines”),

MDE may determine that it is possible to safely reopen school facilities for additional specific

instructional programming.

School districts and charter schools need authorization to transfer operating funds from programs

that are not already assigned to or encumbered by staff salary and benefits, or otherwise

encumbered by federal law, to help cover additional costs incurred for nutrition services,

community education programs, and technology supports for our students.

Care of Eligible Children continues to be necessary for our state’s COVID-19 response. Child

care providers remain open. As such, care for such Eligible Children must continue. All

programs serving children should follow Public Health Guidelines.

For these reasons, I order as follows:

1. Nothing in this Executive Order should be construed to encourage or require

Minnesotans in at-risk categories to act inconsistently with public health

recommendations of the advice of their doctors. All Minnesotans should continue to

regularly check and follow the advice on MDH’s COVID-19 webpage:

https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/

2. To preserve the health and safety of students, their families, school staff, and the

public and to provide continuity of education during the COVID-19 pandemic, and

pursuant to Minnesota Statutes 2019, section 12.21, subdivision 3(11) and paragraph

seven of Executive Order 20-19, I authorize and direct the Commissioner to extend

the Distance Learning Period established in Executive Order 20-19 through the end of

the 2019-2020 school calendar year. For all school districts and charter schools that

operate on an approved flexible learning year calendar, the Distance Learning Period

is extended until June 30, 2020. For the purposes of this Executive Order, the

extended distance learning periods set forth in this paragraph are referred to as the

“Extended Distance Learning Period.”

3. Executive Order 20-19 remains in full effect during the Extended Distance Learning

Period except as explicitly modified by this Executive Order.

4. School districts and charter schools must use May 1, 2020 and May 4, 2020 to plan

for the Extended Distance Learning Period, which will begin on May 5, 2020. To the

extent possible, school districts and charter schools must provide accommodations for

staff to work remotely. If staff must report to their respective buildings during this

Extended Distance Learning Period, planning activities must be performed in

accordance with Public Health Guidelines. This provision supersedes paragraph 12 of

Executive Order 20-19.

5. School districts and charter schools must electronically post their respective distance

learning plans and communicate them to students and their families by May 5, 2020.

The distance learning plans must address, but not be limited to, communication

pathways with student families, community input on student and family needs, and

other outreach opportunities. This is in addition to core instruction, supports for all

student groups, nutrition, school-age care, technology needs, and effectively

delivering educational models to students in a distance setting.

6. This order applies to all schools as set forth in Minnesota Statutes 2019, section

12.21, subdivision 3(11). I continue to encourage tribal and nonpublic schools to

fulfill the spirit and directives of this Executive Order.

7. During the Extended Distance Learning Period, all public schools must provide

continuous education based on the distance learning plans developed during the

Closure Period directed by Executive Order 20-02, and as modified by school

districts and charter schools during relevant planning periods.

8. I authorize the Commissioner, in consultation with the Commissioner of Health, to

expand in-school provisions of additional activities and programming the

Commissioner deems necessary and that can be operationalized in compliance with

Public Health Guidelines where those services cannot be provided through a distance

learning model and those services are needed to access that student’s distance

learning instruction, provide supports or services schools can safely offer, and create

opportunities for meaningful connections between students and teachers.

9. MDE, in consultation with MDH, must establish a protocol in accordance with Public

Health Guidelines to allow for home visits by school staff to build and preserve

relationships with students and their families. Nothing in this protocol should be

interpreted as a requirement or should be used to replace services provided by

counties or social services.

10. Subject to paragraph 1, school districts and charter schools, in cooperation with state

agencies, are directed to support communities disproportionately impacted by the

Distance Learning Period and Extended Distance Learning Period, including but not

limited to, historically marginalized families and families experiencing homelessness.

During these periods, schools are expected to provide meals and instructional

resources needed for distance learning to their students. MDE will continue to

provide additional guidance to school districts and charter schools about this

provision

11. During the Extended Distance Learning Period and per applicable labor agreements,

school districts and schools must allow for remote work or telework to the extent

possible. To the extent that it is necessary for teachers and staff to be physically

present in school buildings, school districts and schools must provide conditions for

staff in compliance with Public Health Guidelines.

12. Consistent with applicable labor agreements, school districts and charter schools must

utilize available staff who are able to work during the Extended Distance Learning

Period. School districts and charter schools must also provide employee

accommodations as required by law.

13. Upon approval by the Executive Council and notwithstanding Minnesota Statutes

2019, section 169.443, subdivision 2, school buses may deploy arm and flashing red

signal systems when delivering meals and distance learning materials to students.

14. School districts and charter schools must make all reasonable efforts to provide daily

reports to MDE on the provision of care to Eligible Children, meal delivery and

nutrition services, and access to internet and devices

15. Upon approval by the Executive Council, the requirement for school districts and

charter schools to administer and for current senior high school students to complete

the civics test questions pursuant to Minnesota Statutes 2019, section 120B.02,

subdivision 3 is waived for the 2019-2020 school year.

16. Upon approval by the Executive Council, school districts and charter schools are

authorized to transfer operating funds from certain programs that are not already

assigned to or encumbered by staff salary and benefits, or otherwise encumbered by

federal law, for the following purposes:

a. To provide care to Eligible Children during the school day.

b. To pay additional transportation costs incurred between March 30, 2020 and

the end of the 2019-2020 school year, as defined in paragraphs 2 and 3,

needed to implement this Executive Order in providing distance learning

instruction and meal delivery.

c. To pay for additional costs related to technology needed to provide distance

learning instruction.

d. To pay the portion of staff salary and benefits of employees paid through the

community service fund normally funded by fees that were refunded, waived,

or otherwise not paid during the Closure, Distance Learning, and Extended

Distance Learning periods.

e. To pay the portion of food service fund staff salary and benefits normally

funded by meal reimbursement revenue during the Closure, Distance

Learning, and Extended Distance Learning periods.

f. A fund transfer is allowed if the transfer does not increase state aid obligations

to the school district or charter school or result in additional property tax

authority for the school district. A transfer is limited to the operating funds of

a school district or charter school. A school board must approve a fund

transfer by the fiscal year reporting deadline. A school district or charter

school must maintain accounting records for the purpose of this Executive

Order that are sufficient to document both the specific funds transferred and

use of those funds. Such accounting records are subject to auditor review. Any

execution of this flexibility must not interfere with or jeopardize funding per

federal requirements. Any transfer must not interfere with the delivery of

distance learning or social distancing models for all students and school staff.

The Commissioner must provide guidance on the fund balance transfers that

are allowable for the purposes outlined above.

17. Upon approval by the Executive Council, school districts and charter schools may use

fiscal year 2020 (“FY 2020”) revenues from programs that are not already assigned to

staff salary and benefits for the purposes in paragraph 16 needed to implement this

Executive Order. The expanded revenue use in a program is allowed if it does not

increase state aid obligations to the school districts or charter schools or result in

additional property tax authority for the school district other than what would be

received under the statutory uses of the revenue in FY 2020. A school board must

approve the use of FY 2020 revenue from operating funds of a district by the fiscal

year reporting deadline. A school district or charter school must maintain accounting

records for the purpose of this Executive Order that may be reviewed by auditors and

that are sufficient to document both the specific funds transferred and use of those

funds. The Commissioner must provide guidance on the state revenue programs that

may be used for the purposes outlined in this Executive Order.

18. Upon approval by the Executive Council, under Minnesota Statutes 2019, section

134.355, subdivision 8, the purposes of regional library telecommunications aid is

expanded to include the improvement of internet access and access to technology

with items that are not e-rated, including, but not limited to, digital or online

resources.

19. The Commissioner, in consultation with the Commissioner of Health, may allow

school districts and charter schools to open for summer school and extended school

year programming. These programs must comply with Public Health Guidelines,

paragraphs 1 and 11 and MDE guidance created pursuant to paragraph 20 of this

Executive Order.

20. I direct the Commissioner to create guidance for distance learning during the summer

period, and, if possible per MDH recommendations, for summer learning that

employs a hybrid model of distance learning and in-school learning.

21. Upon recommendation from the Commissioner of Health, school districts and charter

schools may begin their 2020-2021 school year based on their respectively approved

school calendars. I direct the Commissioner, in consultation with the Commissioner

of Health, to develop an educational model that balances in-school and distance

learning methods in the case that a typical, in-building school year is not possible

based on the health and safety of students, their families, school staff, and the public

due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

22. Upon approval by the Executive Council, notwithstanding any law to the contrary,

fiscal year 2020 expenditures for employees and contracted services that would have

been eligible for state special education aid under Minnesota Statutes 2019, section

125A.76, and for special education tuition billing under Minnesota Statutes 2019,

sections 125A.11 and 127A.47, in the absence of school closures or learning plan

modifications due to COVID-19 must be included as eligible expenditures for the

calculation of state special education aid and special education tuition billing.

23. Upon approval by the Executive Council, notwithstanding any law to the contrary:

a. For school meals served beginning on or after March 16, 2020, the

Commissioner may adjust the fiscal year 2020 appropriations remaining under

Minnesota Laws 2019, First Special Session Chapter 11, article 7, section 1,

subdivisions 2, 3, and 4 as specified in paragraph b.

b. On June 30, 2020, the Commissioner must subtract the amount actually paid

to participants for the 2019-2020 school year under Minnesota Laws 2019,

First Special Session Chapter 11, article 7, section 1, subdivisions 2, 3, and 4

through March 13, 2020 from the total appropriations for each program. The

Commissioner must then allocate the remaining funds under each

appropriation to participants in the summer food service program on a permeal basis for meals served on or after March 16, 2020 and before July 1,

2020.

Pursuant to Minnesota Statutes 2019, section 4.035, subdivision 2, and section 12.32, this

Executive Order is effective upon approval by the Executive Council. It remains in effect until

the peacetime emergency declared in Executive Order 20-01 is terminated or until it is rescinded

by proper authority.

A determination that any provision of this Executive Order is invalid will not affect the

enforceability of any other provision of this Executive Order. Rather, the invalid provision will

be modified to the extent necessary so that it is enforceable.

Signed on April 23, 2020.

Tim Walz

Governor

Filed According to Law:

Steve Simon

Secretary of State

Approved by the Executive Council on April 24, 2020:

Alice Roberts-Davis

Secretary, Executive Council

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