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COVID-19 Health and Safety
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COVID-19 Health and Safety: 2021-22

COVID-19 Health and Safety: 2021-22


Temporary Shift to Online Learning

Jan.12, 2022

In response to a significant reduction in staff available to work in person due to COVID-19, Minneapolis Public Schools will temporarily move to online learning Friday, Jan. 14 through Thursday, Jan. 27. There is no school on Monday, Jan. 17 due to MLK Day and also no school on Friday, Jan. 28 for teacher record-keeping. In-person learning in schools will resume on Monday, Jan. 31. 

  • MPS families are encouraged to keep students home for online learning during this time if they are able. As often as possible, teachers will actively engage online with students during scheduled student contact time.
  • For families who cannot keep students at home, schools will be open for online learning. Bus transportation will continue and meals will be available. Online learning at schools will take place under the supervision of available school staff, though not necessarily in regular classrooms, so students should bring supplies such as headphones if possible. 
  • Families do not need to formally notify their school whether they will learn online at home or school. However, so that MPS can plan for staffing coverage, we are asking families to fill out the following survey by Sunday, Jan. 16, indicating whether you intend to send your child(ren) to school for in-person online learning.

Read the full message and our Q&A for families, and watch our informational videos:


Table of Contents

Health and Safety

The health and safety of MPS students, their families, and staff is of utmost importance. The guidance outlined below follows recommendations from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH): Best Practices for COVID-19 Prevention in Schools for the 2021-22 school year, which is aligned with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

  1. Face coverings are REQUIRED for all staff, students, and visitors over 2 years of age regardless of an individual’s vaccination status in all MPS buildings as of August 9, 2021. Face coverings also continue to be required by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on public transportation, including school buses.
  2. Maintaining 3 - 6 feet of social distancing continues to be recommended, especially for younger students and unvaccinated people.
  3. MPS is not currently offering a distance learning option. Families do have the option to attend MPS Online School, but enrolled students forfeit enrollment in their current schools so this is not a short-term option nor a formal distance learning recommendation from MPS. Systems are being put in place should school districts be required by the state to offer a distance learning option based on infection rates.

As the school year progresses, MPS will continue to monitor COVID-19 rates and update health and safety practices as advised by local and national health agencies.

Virtual Learning Opportunities

MPS students are expected to attend school in person with face coverings, which will be required for all students, staff and visitors. Everyone 12 years and older who are eligible to get vaccinated are strongly encouraged to do so. To find out where you can get a free vaccine, visit: Find Vaccine Locations.

Please note that students who must quarantine due to a close exposure to someone with COVID-19 will be able to keep up with their studies through an online learning option with their regular teachers.

We use a variety of terms to describe different scenarios when students are not able to come to school to learn in person:

  • Online learning is when ALL students learn virtually. Online learning is currently a crisis response to MPS’s significant staff reduction due to COVID-19. 

  • Distance learning refers to the model that was previously in place in 2020-21 under the Governor’s emergency executive order, which has since ended. In the interim, the legislature did not amend the law to allow for distance learning as we knew it last school year. 

  • E-learning is when ALL students are learning virtually due to inclement weather. MPS has been allotted a total of five e-learning days for the school year.

MPS Online School

Many students realized through their distance learning during the pandemic that they thrive in and prefer virtual learning. In response, MPS expanded its MPS Online School from a high school program to a formal school, now available to students from kindergarten through grade 12.

MPS Online School provides supportive, high-quality classes anywhere and is like any other school with a community of students, teachers and staff dedicated to the academic and social-emotional needs of students.

Families who choose MPS Online School should know that students lose their seats in their original community or magnet schools. However, students have the option to re-enroll in their original school at the end of the academic quarter or semester and will be placed there if seats are available. If seats are not available there, students will be placed in another school of choice, though bus transportation to that school is not guaranteed.

Face coverings

Face coverings are required

As of August 9, 2021, face coverings are required in all MPS buildings for all staff, students, and visitors over 2 years of age, regardless of an individual’s vaccination status. The CDC continues to require face coverings on public transportation, including school buses.

Acceptable face coverings include form-fitting face coverings, scarfs, bandanas. A face shield can be worn in addition to a face covering, but not as a replacement for a face covering.

It is recommended that students and staff who are not fully vaccinated also wear a face covering in crowded outdoor settings or during activities that involve ongoing close contact with others who may not be vaccinated.

Exemptions to face coverings

There are some exemptions to requiring face coverings for students over the two-years old if the student has a specific medical, developmental, or behavioral condition. Families will need to talk with a licensed healthcare provider to find out if their student may be exempt from wearing a face covering. As needed, families should review and fill out the Student Face Covering Medical Exemption form (Hmong, Somali, Spanish).

Additionally, there are times when wearing a face covering is not possible. In these instances, it is important to maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet from others as much as possible.

  • Children under two-years-old should not wear face coverings.
  • When someone is eating or drinking.
  • Certain situations may make face coverings unsafe and should not be worn such as when swimming or other activities that will soak or submerge a face covering in water.
  • Students with a medical conditions, disabilities or special needs as outlined below. Families will need to fill out the Student Face Covering Medical Exemption form (Hmong, Somali, Spanish):
    • If a student has a medical condition that makes it difficult to breathe or is not able to remove their face covering without help.
    • When wearing a face covering makes communication difficult or even impossible, such as a student who is deaf or hard of hearing.

Social/physical distancing

Maintaining 3-6 feet of social distancing continues to be recommended, especially for younger students and unvaccinated people. Students younger than 15 will be discouraged from gathering together in hallways, common areas and bathrooms.

Students and staff will form small groups that stay together as much as possible throughout the day and from day to day, especially for younger students who are not yet eligible to get vaccinated (students under 12 years of age).

Small groups will maintain 6 feet of distance between each other and unnecessary mixing between groups will be limited as much as possible, such as during lunch, bathroom breaks, arrival and dismissal, free periods, recess, etc.


Due to local bus driver shortages, buses will be filled to capacity. Students will be assigned a seat to help with COVID contact tracing, as necessary. All students and adults on the bus will be required to wear a face covering during the entire ride. Bus seating will be arranged to maintain 6 feet of distance between the driver and all riders.

Buses will be disinfected regularly with special attention to high-contact surfaces. Windows and roof vents will be left open when possible to allow for as much ventilation as possible.

Meal time

Maintaining 6 feet of distance between groups of students during meals is recommended. Students will eat in lunchrooms or other common areas as needed. Seating charts are also recommended.

Field Trips

Due to health and safety, international field trips will not be allowed. Face coverings must be worn at all times while on an MPS bus and any building that is part of a field trip visit. Maintaining 3 feet of social distancing between student groups while on the field trip is also recommended.


The 2020 guidance on athletic trips will continue to be in place. The specific guidance from the Minnesota State High School League can be found at this link.

Students who have been told to quarantine are expected to not physically attend school, as well as all athletics, activities, and events.

Visitors and Volunteers

Visitors and volunteers will be allowed in schools to support academic and other programs. All visitors and volunteers must wear face coverings in all MPS buildings and maintain social distancing of at least 3 feet.

Cleaning and Disinfecting

High-touch and high-traffic areas in schools will be cleaned and disinfected on a daily basis as appropriate such as classrooms and offices, public restrooms, halls and main stairwells, drinking fountains, gym floors, and locker rooms.

Ventilation Systems

Strict air quality practices will be followed with air handling systems turned on at least two hours before and after students and staff are in a school. MPS uses the highest-rated air filters available: MERV 11- 14 where possible. HEPA filters will be used in any classroom that does not have the ability to support MERV 14 air filters.

Deciding when to keep your student home if they’re sick

MPS has a guide for families to help them decide when they should keep their students home from in-person learning if they are feeling unwell. The guide outlines the symptoms to look for that mean students should stay home.

Families can also help schools stay open and prevent the spread of COVID-19 by doing the following:

  • Keep students home if they are sick. EVERY DAY, check to see if your student has symptoms of being sick.
  • Keep your student home if they have been exposed to COVID-19.
  • Teach your student to wear their face covering (mask) on the bus and at school.

The guide includes other important information for families:

  • What to expect if your student is sick at school.
  • Make sure your school has your current contact information.
  • Have a plan for who can pick up your student if they are sick at school
  • MPS process for reporting COVID-19 cases to families.

NOTE: If your student has to quarantine due to being exposed to COVID-19, families should contact the school for lesson plans.

If a student becomes sick at school

A dedicated space near the nurse’s office will be set aside for any student who starts to show symptoms of COVID-19. This illness room will be clearly marked and air flow from this room to other rooms will be protected with additional HEPA filters.

The student will be separated from others until they can be picked up by a parent or guardian. Transportation will be provided to any student whose parent/guardian cannot pick them up in a reasonable time.

If your student must stay home due to having COVID-19 or being in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, your student will need to stay home for 14 days to quarantine. If your student is well, but needs to quarantine, they can keep up with their coursework through distance learning. Follow these quarantine tips from the Minnesota Department of Health.

Quarantining for Students

Quarantining means keeping physically separated from others. Quarantining students if they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 will depend on whether the student is fully vaccinated or not as outlined below. 

Quarantining helps protect others from getting COVID and slows the spread of the virus, as it provides time to see if someone has COVID-19. People with COVID-19 can infect others before they start to feel sick or may never have any symptoms of having COVID-19.

Families should call their school’s health office to let staff know your student has been told to quarantine. During quarantine periods, students are expected to not physically attend school as well as all athletics, activities, and events.

The mandatory quarantine period is 10 days for unvaccinated staff or students who are in close contact with someone with COVID-19.  

MPS reduced the required quarantine from 14 to 10 days to ensure as much in-person student learning as possible and is doing so after discussion with the health experts on our COVID-19 Regional Support Team. Current research, while done prior to the Delta variant, indicates only a one-percent risk for increased contagion as a result of this change. 

In some cases, the 14-day quarantine still may be required based on the number of people infected, timing and exposure risk (See: “Best Practices Recommendations for Covid-19 Prevention in Schools” and “Best Practices for Handling a Confirmed Case of COVID-19” via the Minnesota Department of Health). 

Free COVID-19 Vaccines and Testing

Vaccines for children ages 5-11

Following CDC approval of the Pfizer pediatric COVID-19 vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds, MPS will be hosting a series of vaccine clinics in our schools in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Health and the Minneapolis Health Department. To prioritize registration for families who attend the schools where clinics are held, clinic details will be shared with school families first. 

Visit the Minnesota Department of Health website for more information about vaccines for children and vaccine locations.

Vaccines for children ages 12+

Free vaccines are available to anyone 12 years and older. Vaccines are free to everyone, no matter their immigration status. No identification or insurance is required when getting vaccinated. Find free vaccine locations.

Free COVID-19 testing options

There are many free COVID-19 testing opportunities:
  • Test kits are available for students for themselves and if needed to take to their family members wherever there is a co-located school-based clinics. 
  • Walk in or schedule an appointment for a free test at one of the state’s 11 COVID-19 community testing sites.
  • Order a free test through the state’s at-home testing program: COVID-19 Test at Home.
  • Find other testing options near them through the state’s Find Testing Locations map, including through local providers, pharmacies and clinics: Find Testing Locations.