Mankato high school and middle school students are coming back to classrooms four days a week.

Mankato Area Public Schools on Thursday announced plans for more in-person learning for its secondary students beginning next Thursday.

There is no school for middle and high school students on Monday or Tuesday as staff prepare for the transition. Wednesday will be a usual distance learning day for all secondary students.

All students who chose in-person learning will be back in classrooms on Thursday.

In the following weeks, in-person learners will be at schools on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays and will learn from home on Wednesdays.

Students continue to have the option to learn from home every day.

Most Mankato secondary students are currently in school two days per week.

The announcement comes a day after the state released new safety guidelines for in-person learning.

The changes include loosening the 6 feet of social distancing requirement. Now 6 feet of separation is recommended “whenever feasible,” but 3 feet is the new minimum.

“This development has been long awaited by students, staff and families,” a Mankato Area Public Schools announcement states, adding district leaders are confident its schools can comply with the updated guidelines.

The return to full in-person learning is not quite full time because the state requires schools to give teachers some extra time for lesson planning and to work with students who have opted to continue distance learning.

Mankato elementary students have been back in classrooms since mid-January. They come to school five days per week and end each day earlier than usual.

On Thursday, Mankato Area Public Schools also reported 13 known case of COVID-19 among students and staff over the past week. Over 60 students and staff are on quarantine. There have now been nearly 300 confirmed cases since the start of the school year.

Many area districts have already returned to nearly full-time in-person learning models for all students. A few other area districts announced new plans to do so Thursday or announced an acceleration of their plan.

All Nicollet Public School students will come back on Tuesday.

Le Sueur-Henderson Public Schools had planned to bring back its middle school students next week and its high school students the following week. Now all secondary students will come back next week. The change is because the state has eliminated a directive for districts to bring back a few grades at a time.

In the St. Peter School District, a staggered return to in-person learning Monday through Thursdays is tentatively planned.

The St. Peter School Board on Thursday approved a schedule of March 1 for fifth graders, March 15 for sixth and seventh graders and March 22 for eighth through 12th graders.

Supt. Bill Gronseth said they will look at sooner starts following the release of the new guidelines. But he said it was too soon to commit to any revised dates.

The board members decided to stick with the schedule that had been developed before the guideline changes. But they authorized administration to accelerate the time line if feasible.

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