Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order on Thursday, April 2 suspending all face-to-face learning at K-12 schools for the remainder of the school year.
Executive Order 2020-35 orders all K-12 school buildings to close for the remainder of the school year unless restrictions are lifted.
"This doesn't mean our kids will stop learning, each district must develop an alternate learning plan for students to continue their education during this time," said Whitmer.
The order also ensures continuing of learning by setting guidelines for remote learning, Whitmer's office said in a press release.
“My number one priority right now is protecting Michigan families from the spread of COVID-19. For the sake of our students, their families, and the more than 100,000 teachers and staff in our state, I have made the difficult decision to close our school facilities for the remainder of the school year,” Whitmer said.
“As a parent, I understand the challenge closing schools creates for parents and guardians across the state, which is why we are setting guidelines for schools to continue remote learning and ensuring parents have resources to continue their children’s education from the safety of their homes. There is no video chat or homework packet that can replace the value of a highly trained, experienced teacher working with students in a classroom, but we must continue to provide equitable educational opportunities for students during this public health crisis.”
District facilities may be used by public school employees and contractors for the purposes of facilitating learning at a distance while also practicing social distancing, Whitmer's office said.
The Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators and the Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers are developing a Continuity of Learning Plan template application for schools to use in order to create its own local plan.
That application will be available by April 3.
District plans will need to detail how the district will provide opportunities for students to learn remotely and how schools will manage and monitor students' progress.
Midland Public Schools is already working on their plan.
"I would like to say we're a little ahead of the curve, but not done," said Michael Sharrow, Superintendent of Midland Public Schools. "We hope to announce our continuous learning plan around April 13th."
Sharrow said the district has provided Chromebooks to all of their students so that they can continue their online instruction.
He said they plan to catch students up before the start of the next school year.
"We're thinking we're going to do something in August where we would do a remediation period in August and have them up and running to go like a regular school start post Labor Day," said Sharrow.
Sharrow said there's also a commencement plan for graduating seniors in the future as well.
"You know if graduation was around June 1st, would parents be willing to wait until July?," said Sharrow. "If not, do we do the virtual event? So, it's a little early but I think we're committed to kind of waiting and seeing how we can honor these students the best we can."
Every district will needs its plan approved by its regional intermediate school district before it can be implemented.
The state said districts can also partner with one another to create joint plans.
"Every district’s plan will be different and will reflect what’s best and feasible for their community. A plan can include learning by any number of modes of instruction delivery, including a hybrid approach. However they are designed, districts must ensure their plans are appropriate, equitable and accessible for students and families," Whitmer's office said.
If a district's plan relies on online instruction, the district should make sure every student has access, Whitmer's office said.
The state also said students and families will not penalized if they are unable to participate in their alternative learning plan.
In addition, school districts will continue to provide meals to families in need during the COVID-19 crisis.
Districts have the flexibility to adopt a balanced calendar for the 2019-2020 school year and/or to begin the 2020-2021 school year before Labor Day without having to seek additional approval, Whitmer's office said.
Teachers and staff will be paid for the remainder of the school year.
All high school seniors in the state will be given the opportunity to graduate this year. Also, all standardized tests previously scheduled for the remainder of the school year will be canceled.
There will be a date in October for rising high school seniors to take the SAT.
The Michigan Council of Charter Authorizers issued the following statement in response to Whitmer's order:
“We applaud the Governor for her determination to protect students and families during this unprecedented time in our state’s history,” said Rob Kimball, chair of the Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers. “The Governor’s commitment to ensure all students—regardless of their socioeconomic status—have access to the tools they need to keep learning is especially inspiring. We look forward to working in partnership with her to implement this Executive Order.
Public charter school leaders teachers have been rapidly innovating and adapting their practices to keep learning moving forward. They are our heroes. We look forward to sharing best practices for online and remote learning across Michigan’s entire K–12 community.
The next few months are going to bring extraordinary change for all our state’s families. For us, job number one is keeping our students connected to academic content so they can continue their progress toward becoming the talented, skilled Michiganders of tomorrow.”
Michigan Education Association President Paula Herbart issued the following statement:
“The Michigan Education Association supports Gov. Whitmer’s executive order to close in-person public school operations to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Protecting the health, safety and well-being of our students, teachers, support staff and other public school employees is our top concern.
MEA stands ready to work with school leaders on a district-by-district basis to serve the learning needs of students in every community across Michigan. Distance learning can never fully replace face-to-face time between students and educators, but we must do the very best we can under these unprecedented circumstances.”
State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice issued the following statement:
“In this public health crisis, the governor continues to put public health first. I appreciate her efforts to address public health and public education needs at this extraordinarily difficult time.
Michigan educators are creative, intelligent, and hard-working. Given the very different circumstances within and across districts in Michigan, they will do their best to provide for the needs of children during this pandemic.”
You can view the complete order here.