WILLMAR — Families and kids in west central Minnesota may have to wait a few more days to find out how their public schools will open this fall.

State officials offered guidance Thursday to help schools decide how to open in September. The state’s school buildings closed in mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Reopening will not be a one-size-fits-all process. The decision starts with looking at the number of recent COVID-19 cases in a school district’s county. Other factors will also be weighed in deciding whether to offer in-person learning, distance learning or a hybrid system.

Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City
Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City
State Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, a retired teacher, said he appreciated the recognition that different school districts might need to make different decisions.

“What is best for school districts in Greater Minnesota may be far different from those in urban areas and I am hopeful the approach we are taking will provide adequate latitude to adjust accordingly,” Urdahl said in a statement.

Willmar Superintendent Jeff Holm said he was pleased the state plan allows for local decisions.

It would take some time to study the information the state released Thursday, he said, and he was glad for the state’s guidance on using data in planning.

Willmar Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Jeff Holm is shown Monday, March 16, 2020, at the Willmar Education and Arts Center.

Erica DIschino / West Central Tribune
Willmar Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Jeff Holm is shown Monday, March 16, 2020, at the Willmar Education and Arts Center. Erica DIschino / West Central Tribune
"There was a lot more detail behind it than many of us anticipated,” he said. Districts have been waiting for the announcement for the last month.

Holm planned to speak with School Board Chairman Mike Reynolds to see whether a special board meeting might be needed. The next board meeting is Aug. 10, and a plan will be discussed at that meeting if not before, Holm said.

Holm said he knows it’s a stressful time for all involved, and most likely no decision will please everyone.

As the school year goes on, districts may shift between learning methods, depending on local conditions, he said. “We’ve got to be nimble and ready to pivot to different models,” he said.

Not all school districts have until the day after Labor Day, Sept. 8, to open school.

MACCRAY will open Aug. 18, so it can close early and begin a construction project next spring.

Sherri Broderius
Sherri Broderius
Superintendent Sherri Broderius said, “the governor gave us some homework to do. ... We will have to work fast and smart.”

The district would look at the state’s data and decide if its buildings can provide a safe environment for staff and students, she said in an email.

The Dawson-Boyd School Board has already planned a special meeting for Monday. Superintendent David Hansen said they have been working on an “all in” plan for the district for the past month. Distance learning will be offered to those who choose it, something the state is requiring of all districts.