Many students in southeast Minnesota are inching their way back into the classroom, with an eye toward eventually returning to normal.

The majority of the students doing so are in elementary school.

Gov. Tim Walz announced last month that school districts could return elementary students to their classrooms starting Jan. 18, regardless of the spread of the coronavirus in their communities. But many schools were able to allow students back in earlier because the presence of the coronavirus was low in their districts.

All students in the Hayfield district returned to in-person learning on Jan. 11.

ALSO READ: 'Please believe we're listening to you': Rochester School Board takes questions about return to classroom

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"This is an accomplishment," Superintendent Gregg Slaathaug said on Facebook. "Not many school districts are or were able to do this to the extent we were able to do."

Austin Public Schools too returned its elementary students to in-person learning and its secondary students to hybrid learning -- a mix of classroom and online learning.

Rochester Public Schools will begin returning its younger students to the hybrid learning model on Tuesday.

Winona Public Schools is in the process of returning its elementary students to in-person learning. According to Communications Coordinator John Casper, it is the first time those students have been in school five days a week since March.

“It really is something that the whole community can take pride in,” Casper said. “The students are excited to be back, the teachers are excited to have them back, and parents are excited for them to be back as well.”

Here are the learning models being used in some of southeast Minnesota's districts:

Austin Public Schools

  • Elementary: Returned to in-person as of Jan. 11

  • Secondary: Returned to hybrid-learning as of Jan. 11


  • Elementary: In-person as of Jan. 4.

  • Secondary: Hybrid learning as of Jan. 4.


  • Elementary: K-6 students are in hybrid learning. In-person learning starts Jan. 26.

  • Secondary: 7-12 students are in distance learning. Starting Jan. 26, secondary students switch to hybrid learning.


  • Elementary: Pre-K-5 will start in-person classes four days a week on a rolling start beginning Jan. 19.

  • Secondary: Students will begin returning to the hybrid learning model starting Jan. 25.


  • Elementary: In-person for grades K-6

  • Secondary: Hybrid learning for grades 7-12.

Pine Island

  • Elementary: K-6 coming in-person.

  • Secondary: Hybrid.


  • K-8 begins moving to in-person learning Monday..

  • 9-12 remains in hybrid learning.


  • Pre-K-5 moving to in-person learning beginning Monday.
  • 6-12 moving to hybrid learning beginning Monday.


  • Elementary: Moving to in-person with a rolling start, beginning Jan. 11.

  • Secondary: Moving to a hybrid-learning model Jan. 28.