Some 500 special-education students can head back to school for in-person instruction and services two days a week starting Oct. 19, St. Paul Public Schools announced Friday.
The district said it’s met all 24 self-imposed readiness targets for taking the first step toward a hybrid schedule.
Just last week, the district said it didn’t have enough staff who were prepared to work in the schools that are reopening. The district said Friday that about 650 staff members will be involved in this initial phase of hybrid instruction.
The affected schools and programs are the Downtown School (Juvenile Detention Center), Care & Treatment programs, hospital programs, Bridge View, Focus Beyond (Pathways 1 and 2), RiverEast and Journeys.
Those programs are being prioritized because it’s especially beneficial for their services to be provided in-person.
The district still plans to announce Oct. 14 whether additional students can return starting Nov. 16.
Next in line to return are grades 2 and under and other special-education programs, followed by grades 3-5 and finally grades 6-12.
Families now are being surveyed regarding whether they want to return to school. Any student can choose to continue with distance learning, which has been in place since the coronavirus reached the state in March.
The district’s Friday announcement came two days after the St. Paul and Minneapolis teachers unions rallied for the continuation of distance learning with better student Internet access and tech support.
In a statement Friday, St. Paul Federation of Educators President Nick Faber said the union believes “we can bring most of our students with special needs back to school in stage 1 and keep them safe.”
But Faber called for clear safety protocols and clear expectations for staff who will be working with students both in-person and remotely.
“It is impossible to do two jobs at once and the district has to discuss with us how we will serve all families sufficiently,” he said.
According to state recommendations, the number of new cases in Ramsey County — 15 per 10,000 residents over a recent two-week period — suggests elementary schools in the city can safely operate at full capacity while middle and high school students can go to school on alternating days to allow for social distancing.