Gov. Walz’s updated order still leaves students behind

Governor Walz issued updated guidance today to his executive order that revealed “next steps” regarding schools and youth sports activities, among other areas.

Even with these changes, too many students will still continue to be negatively impacted by being kept out of school and limited on sports participation.

Elementary School Re-openings

Starting January 18, districts can choose to offer in-person or hybrid learning in elementary schools with mitigation measures in place—such as, teachers wearing masks and face shields while interacting with students and regular on-site testing.

But what about our middle and high school students?

A recent report found that teens are struggling due to school closures. And in other states and even countries, students of all ages are safely back in school.

“The science and data are clear: kids need to be back in school now and it will be safe,” said incoming Senate Education Committee Chairman Roger Chamberlain in a press release. “Being out of school has done great harm to our kids and every day they are not in school it gets worse. The governor’s proposal includes only K-6 and it could take nearly two months to execute.”

Organized Youth Sports (Practices)

From December 18 through January 3, organized youth sports activities can resume outdoor workouts, practices, training or skill-building in smaller groups (no more than three households). Physical distancing of at least six feet must also be maintained between the different household participants “at all times.”

Games, competitions, tournaments, races, and spectator events continue to be prohibited.

On January 4, organized youth sports can resume practices without the household restrictions but must still adhere to a COVID “Preparedness Plan.”

In addition, organized youth sports activity will no longer be directly tied to county case data or school learning model.

“These activities are riskier than individual exercise, as they typically occur in groups,” Walz wrote.

But the data purportedly behind youth sports restrictions is being kept a secret. “Walz and Attorney General insist the Court must take their word that ‘data’ is behind restrictions, but Minnesota can’t be allowed to see,” according to Blois Olson in his “Morning Take.” Forty-two states are allowing sports, and Minnesota “has been one of the most restrictive,” Olson continues. “Data doesn’t support the closures….”

If our leaders are going to make decisions that impact the academic, mental and physical health of hundreds of thousands of kids, shouldn’t science be followed and data disclosed? As my colleague John Phelan writes here, the track record of our state’s leaders on following the data when making decisions that upend our lives hasn’t been their strong suit.