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A growing number of Minnesota school districts are abruptly changing their back-to-school strategies, scrapping plans for in-person classes, and opting to start the school year with distance learning.

The decisions, coming weeks — or days — before the start of the academic year, have been driven by worries over staffing shortages and fluctuating numbers of COVID-19 cases across the state, among other concerns.

In some cases, so many teachers and staff members have requested medical leave or health-related accommodations that school leaders weren't sure they would have enough teachers for returning students. Other district leaders, scrambling to prepare school buildings, map out bus routes and procure safety supplies, feared they were running out of time to safely reopen. Most don't want to follow the trend of schools and universities around the country that have reopened only to close a few days later amid an outbreak of the virus.

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