Minneapolis public schools, many others head to online learning as COVID absences mount

A sign hangs on a doorway to an empty classroom.
Signs giving students tips on proper mask wearing hang in the doorway of a classroom on Sept. 1, 2020.
Evan Frost | MPR News

The Minneapolis public school system is moving to online learning, saying the latest COVID-19 wave has brought staffing to a crisis level. The move will start on Friday, with in-person classes set to resume Jan. 31.

The state's third largest district has been dealing with hundreds of staff absences daily, and can't keep the doors open with the people they have, Ed Graff, the district’s superintendent, said Wednesday.

"We've reached our tipping point,” he said. “As much as we did not want to move to this space, this is where we are."

Graff told reporters that school buildings would remain open, but students who go there may not be in a regular classroom setting with a teacher.

The district says it will try to provide transportation along with bagged breakfasts and lunches, but it’s encouraging families to keep kids home. The district has about 32,000 students, and is the biggest so far to switch to online learning during this COVID surge.

Rochester public schools announced Wednesday it will also go to distance learning next week. An email from the district says remote learning for all students starts next Tuesday, Jan. 18, and runs through Friday, Jan. 28.

Rochester Public Schools' interim superintendent, Kent Pekel said half of all district buildings are affected by staff shortages, posing safety risks. More absences are expected as the omicron variant spreads. The district says around 10 percent of all students tested positive for COVID-19.

Here’s a look at some of the other schools and school systems who have reported temporary suspensions of in-person classes. Check their respective websites for more information:

What schools did we miss? Let us know by emailing tell@mpr.org.

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