ST. PAUL -- School districts across Minnesota will be able to choose how they want to approach educating their students this fall.

Governor Tim Walz announced the Safe Learning Plan for the upcoming school year in a news conference this Thursday afternoon.

It's going to be a first day of school unlike any we've seen.

In partnership with the Minnesota Departments of Health and Education, districts will decide which of three models: in-person, hybrid, or distance learning will be the best for them.

The plan also requires districts to allow students to distance learn and staff to work remotely if requested.

MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm says the data supports different rates of spread depending on the ages of students as well as what counties the schools are in.

For older kids in the school system, particularly those between 15 and 29, their ability to spread the virus actually looks a lot more like adults compared to younger kids, particularly those under 10, where their ability to transmit the virus is very much lower.

MDE Deputy Commissioner Heather Mueller says their department is creating regional support teams to help schools throughout the 2020-2021 year should they need to switch models or in the event that a student or staff member tests positive.

If there is a case in a school or a school district, the superintendent would contact the regional service cooperative and they would say, essentially, we have a confirmed case in our building, what should we do next. The service cooperative person would work with our local health officials as well as the Minnesota Department of Health while the superintendent can turn back to what they need to focus on and that is their school community.

The department of education has also requested an additional $250 million in funding to cover the unforeseen changes in operational costs such as cleaning and transportation, to pay for personal protective equipment including facemasks and face shields for students and staff, and to increase the availability of translated school materials, technology, and tutors for students and families.

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