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Whitmer: Michigan students won't return to school this academic year, will learn remotely instead

 Gov. Gretchen Whitmer offers an update on Michigan's response to coronavirus.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer offers an update on Michigan's response to coronavirus. (WJRT)
Published: Apr. 2, 2020 at 10:23 AM EDT
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(04/02/2020) - Michigan students will not return to school for the remainder of the academic year to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an order Thursday laying out guidelines to continue educating students remotely for the rest of the school year. It could be reversed if restrictions are lifted at some point.

However, Whitmer believes Michigan is at least a month away from the peak of coronavirus in the state. She expects a tough four to six weeks as the illness continues spreading statewide.

The order covers 1.5 million children and 100,000 educators at all K-12 schools in Michigan. Teachers and staff can use school buildings to facilitate remote learning plans, but students will not be allowed inside.

“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.

She acknowledged the hardship many families will face with the cancellation of in-person classes and promised to make sure education continues for every student outside the classroom.

“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,” Whitmer said.

The Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators and the Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers are developing plans for students to learn from home.

Schools are required to submit a plan for how students will continue learning remotely and how teachers will monitor their progress. Each school's plan must be approved by their intermediate school district.

Charter schools must submit a remote learning plan and receive approval from their authorizer.

Each school's plan can be customized based on different modes of teaching depending on what is feasible for each community. Plans can include video lessons, telephone instruction, paper packets and other modes of education.

Schools are required to make sure families have access to any technology required for their plans. Whitmer said families cannot be penalized for not following their school's remote learning plan.

Schools will continue offering disaster child care centers for children of essential workers.

High school seniors in the class of 2020 will be allowed to graduate this spring so they can move on to their next chapter in life.

Schools also are encouraged to continue providing meals for families during the COVID-19 crisis. Teachers will continue to be paid their regular wage for the remainder of this academic year.

For the next school year, Whitmer's order allows schools to start classes before Labor Day without seeking a waiver.

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