Students will not return to school this semester and will instead finish out the year remotely, unless restrictions are lifted.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order Thursday that extends the closure of all public and private K-12 schools and requires districts to switch to distance learning. Most districts were preparing for this as possibility, but the governor's order irons out the details of how the duration of the school year should work.
Why are schools remaining closed?
The governor says this decision was not made lightly, but it was the necessary step to take. Schools will remain closed unless restrictions are lifted before the semester's end.
"This is the best thing we can do for the health of our children, for the tens of thousands of educators in Michigan who work in our schools," Whitmer said Thursday morning. "It will protect more families from the spread of COVID-19 and it will help us return to life sooner."
When Whitmer first made the decision to close schools there were a dozen COVID-19 cases in Michigan, three weeks later the state's case count is over 9,300 and at least 337 people have died. Schools were originally set to close from March 16 to April 6, but under Whitmer's stay at home order, the school closure was then extended through April 13.
Who is responsible for making remote learning plans?
Districts will be tasked with creating remote learning plans that are accessible and equitable for all students. Intermediate school districts will be responsible for approving each district's plan. Various legal restrictions that made it impossible for schools to function remotely have now been lifted as part of this order.
Many districts and intermediate school districts (ISD) have already been planning for this possibility. Kent County ISD, for example, says it purchased 1,000 Chromebooks this week to aid its members districts. Ottawa County ISD released a framework for its remote learning system.
Will seniors graduate?
Yes, seniors will graduate as long as they were already on track prior to the March 16 shutdown.
Will K-11 students move up a grade?
Districts are responsible for determining who should continue to the next grade. However, the governor said the distance learning system should allow for students to progress.
"We want to make sure no student is penalized because of COVID-19 that they are not held back because of this global crisis we are confronting," Whitmer said.
Will special education continue?
Yes, remotely in whatever form is best for each district's students. Whitmer says certain aspects of IEPs may have to be fulfilled after the stay at home order is lifted.
How will assessments work?
All scheduled standardized tests, including the M-STEP and the SAT, will be canceled. There will be a date in October for rising high school seniors to take the SAT and for other high school students to take the PSAT.
What will the next school year look like?
Whitmer said it's too soon to tell what school will look like in the fall and when the year should start. The order allows for districts to move to a balanced calendar and it eliminates the standardized testing requirements. Districts can also begin the 2020-2021 school year before Labor Day without having to seek additional approval.
Will food distribution continue?
Yes, districts and their nonprofit partners will continue distributing food.
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