Feb 1, 2021 - News
St. Paul students head back to their classrooms
Illustration of two masked students walking out of a laptop.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The youngest learners in St. Paul Public Schools are headed back to the classroom for the first time since March. Pre-K through 2nd grade can go back today, while grades 3-5 return Feb 16.

Why it matters: With distance learning, kids in Minnesota and beyond are falling behind — and missing out on other essential services and support schools provide.

The big picture: Most districts across the state are resuming in-person learning for elementary students in some form.

  • Gov. Tim Walz announced in December that elementary schools could start reopening in January.
  • High schoolers will remain remote for now.

Between the lines: The option to return to the classroom might not help all students equally.

  • Just 50% of Asian students and 63% of American Indian students chose to resume in-person learning in St. Paul, compared with 71% of white students, per St. Paul Public Schools.
  • Some worry the discrepancy could lead to even worse learning losses among students of color.

What they're saying: State leaders and many health experts say the benefits of reopening outweigh transmission risk.

  • "We've shown time and time again that schools can be operated safely with basic safety precautions," former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Tom Frieden told Axios' Re:Cap podcast.
  • But local teachers' unions oppose the plan: 93% of St. Paul Federation of Educators members have "no confidence" in the district's safety procedures, per the Pioneer Press.

What to watch: More disruptions could occur, especially if cases rise again.

  • Bloomington schools paused in-person instruction last week following an outbreak among bus drivers.

What's next: Minneapolis Public Schools starts phasing students back next Monday.

This story first appeared in the Axios Twin Cities newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.

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