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More worries about student mental health as school year continues

Two metro schools districts are welcoming another group of learners to the classroom as a new study shows that distance learning is affecting student mental health.

SAINT PAUL, Minn. — Another group of young learners are returning to classrooms Tuesday morning. At Saint Paul Public Schools, students in grades 3-5 will join their younger peers, and in the Anoka-Hennepin district, schools will welcome grades 7-12 to in-person learning in a hybrid model.

More and more students are returning to their schools across the state as a new study from NBC News and Challenge Success shows that distance learning can be a more stressful experience for students than an in-person classroom. The study cited data showing that distance learning can be especially stressful for female students and students of color. 

Teachers unions have been vocal in their opposition of returning students to classrooms, asking that districts wait until more educators and school support staff can receive the COVID vaccine. SPPS teachers have held protests, and the Minneapolis Teacher Union was granted the right to teach from home if they're able by a Hennepin County court.

RELATED: SPPS teachers hold car rally urging district leaders to hold off on reopening schools

RELATED: Court: District must accept Minneapolis teachers' work-from-home accommodation requests

The Center for Disease Control, CDC, released updated guidance on in-person learning last week, emphasizing the importance of masking and social distancing. The recommendations said there is "strong evidence now that in-person schooling can be done safely, especially at lower grade levels." The study was intended for schools grades K through 12. 

President Biden has also indicated that his administration is working to get students back into the classroom in his first 100 days in office. 

RELATED: CDC releases long-awaited guidance on reopening schools

Last week Gov. Walz spoke about Minnesota's "first-in-the-nation educator testing program," an initiative that would provide on-site COVID testing in school cafeterias to staffers who have direct contact with students.

Walz's office announced that more than 96% of school districts have signed up to participate, as of last Friday, and on top of that, 41% of nonpublic schools and two out of four tribal schools. The rate of transmission found among educators is currently at 0.37%.

As of Feb. 11, 85% of K-8 classes in Minnesota are doing some kind of in-person learning, and only 15% are in full distance learning, according to Walz.

"Our goal here in Minnesota is to get 100% of our kids back in school as quickly as possible," Walz said at a news conference. 

RELATED: Gov. Walz unveils 'first-in-the-nation' COVID-19 testing program in schools


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