MN private religious schools likely to open this fall

The state hasn’t issued its guidance yet on public schools reopening this fall, but many private religious schools are intending to bring their students back for in-person classes.

Minneapolis Archbishop Bernard Hebda announced this week that the plan is for Catholic schools in the state to open in the fall, according to the Washington Examiner. Myra McGovern, a spokeswoman for the National Association of Independent Schools, told CNBC that due to smaller class sizes, on average, “private schools could have more flexibility when it comes to adhering to the standards for reopening.” For families who want their children back in class, either for economic or academic reasons, or even because of the psychological benefits of in-person learning, reopening plans—regardless of the type of school—could attract families to different learning environments, McGovern continued. In New Hampshire, for example, the diocese is offering tuition breaks for newly enrolled students.

Catholic school administrators and employees in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis are working on reopening plans using a template they received from Archbishop Hebda. Guidelines from the Minnesota Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Preventions are expected to be included in the templates, which will then get returned to the archbishop, with flexibility in mind and room for changes as more information on COVID-19 gets released. From teachers rotating classrooms instead of students to quarantine rooms for students if they start experiencing symptoms, health and safety protocols have been thought through since planning began the end of May.

But it’s not just health concerns driving reopening plans. Many religious schools are also worried social pressure will push governments to require their closure, the Washington Examiner continues, especially given the religious liberty battles churches found themselves entangled in following shutdown plans. In Minnesota, a coalition of Catholic bishops and Lutheran faith leaders defied Governor Walz’s executive order that shut down in-person church services. The Upper Midwest Law Center brought suit in Minnesota Federal District Court on behalf of other churches and Minnesota business owners, alleging that Walz’s shutdown orders were unauthorized and unconstitutional.

Because the Minnesota Department of Education only has jurisdiction over the state’s public and charter schools, private and religious schools can choose to reopen without waiting for official guidance from MDE, which the Department is expected to announce by the week of July 27.