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Whitmer to release “Michigan’s Return to School Roadmap” June 30

By: Maria Allard | C&G Newspapers | Published June 19, 2020

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WARREN — One question many have been asking is whether or not students will return to the classroom this fall.

They might have the answer soon.

On June 30, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is expected to release the executive order  “Michigan’s Return to School Roadmap” that will provide details on recommendations for opening schools statewide this September. In a prepared statement, the governor said, she is “optimistic that we will return to in-person learning in the fall.”

According to a press release from the governor’s office, the roadmap will set the minimum health and safety requirements for reopening schools, although school officials have the option to implement more aggressive ones in consultation with local public health officials. The state’s minimum requirements will apply to all schools, including traditional public, charter, private and parochial schools.

The Return to School plan will align closely with the MI Safe Start Plan. The governor will consider the six phases of the MI Safe Start Plan and the Michigan Economic Recovery Council’s 8 regions of the state to determine how in-person instruction can resume. Families and educators need to be prepared for changes regarding face-to-face instruction if there is evidence of the virus spreading in the community.

Last month, Whitmer signed an executive order to create the COVID-19 Return to School Advisory Council. The council acts in an advisory capacity to the governor and the COVID-19 Task Force on Education, and will develop and submit recommendations to the COVID-19 Task Force on Education regarding students returning to school. The council is chaired by Tonya Allen and includes community members, educators, parents and students.

“Schools must make sure to enact strict safety measures to continue protecting educators, students and their families,” Whitmer said. “I will continue working closely with the Return to School Advisory Council and leaders in health care to ensure we get this right, but we also need more flexibility and support from the federal government. This crisis has had serious implications on our budget, and we need federal support if we’re going to get this right for our kids.”

Whitmer closed down all K-12 school buildings in the state from March 16 through April 5 to slow the spread of COVID-19. The plan was to reopen schools April 6; however, Whitmer then extended the closure until the end of the 2019-2020 school year.

With schools being closed, districts were required to submit a Continuity of Learning and COVID-19 Response Plan in order to continue to receive state aid for operations. The plan needed to include a completed assurance document, budget outline and continuity of learning plan.

Because of the pandemic, teachers continued educating students at home through online learning. They were trained on programs like Google Classroom, Schoology and Zoom to keep in touch with students in a virtual format either in a class format, small groups or one-on-one.

Paper packets also were set home so students could keep up with their studies, and teachers made themselves available by telephone. Depending on their grade level, students were required to complete a certain amount of schoolwork per week.

Local school districts have prepared for these unprecedented times, including  the continuation of online learning if parents choose to keep their children home regardless of schools reopening.

For example, Warren Consolidated Schools is ready to launch a K-12 virtual education platform option through Schoology for the 2020-2021 school year. According to school officials, Schoology is designed to create engaging content, design lessons and assess student understanding. Students and teachers also can communicate through interactive discussion boards, and grading tools are available to provide feedback.

“We all know that nothing can truly replace a great teacher in a traditional brick-and-mortar classroom, but given the uncertainty of the future, the district felt it was important to have a virtual option ready for our students, should the need develop next year,” WCS Superintendent Robert Livernois said.

During the summer months, WCS staff members will prepare the K-12 online option for students.

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