School Roadmap Directs Districts to Develop Return to School Plans

A recent University of Michigan study showed that about one-third of parents don’t plan to send their children back to school in the fall out of fear of the spread of the coronavirus.

On Tuesday, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced a plan she believes will allow a safe return to in-person learning this fall.

Whitmer released the “MI Safe Schools Return to School Roadmap,” a comprehensive document she said will help districts create local plans for in-person learning in the fall. The roadmap outlines a number of safety protocols for schools to implement in each phase of the governor’s MI Safe Start Plan.

The governor also signed Executive Order 2020-142, which provides a structure to support all schools in Michigan as they plan for a return of PreK-12 education in the fall. 

“Our students, parents, and educators have made incredible sacrifices during our battle with COVID-19,” Whitmer said. “Thanks to our aggressive action against this virus, the teachers who have found creative ways to reach their students, and the heroes on the front lines, I am optimistic that we will return to in-person learning in the fall.”

Whitmer said the roadmap will help provide schools with the “guidance they need as they enact strict safety measures” to continue protecting educators, students, and their families.

“I will continue working closely with the Return to Learn Advisory Council and experts in epidemiology and public health to ensure we get this right, but we also need more flexibility and financial support from the federal government,” Whitmer said. “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.”

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive, said closely examining the data and remaining vigilant in steps to fight the virus are the “most important things we can do” as the state prepares to reopen school buildings this fall.

“I will continue to work closely with (Whitmer) and the Return to Learn Advisory Council to ensure we continue to put the health and safety of our students and educators first,” Khaldun said. “We will remain nimble to protect students, educators, and their families.” 

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Executive Order 2020-142 requires school districts to adopt a COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan laying out how they will protect students and educators across the various phases of the Michigan Safe Start Plan.

The roadmap offers guidelines as to the types of safety protocols that will be required or recommended at each phase. In recognition that these protocols will cost money, Whitmer also announced she was allocating $256 million to support the districts in implementing their local plans as part of the bipartisan budget agreement the Senate Majority Leader, the Speaker of the House, and the governor announced Monday.  

The safety protocols detailed in the MI Safe Schools Roadmap include guidance on the use of PPE, good hygiene, cleaning/disinfecting, spacing in classrooms, screening for symptoms, athletics, and more. The roadmap also recognizes the impact COVID-19 has had on students’ and educators’ metal health, and offers guidance on how schools can address this issue. 

Whitmer will continue to use the MI Safe Start Plan as the highest-level governing framework for determining if and when it is safe to resume in-person instruction.  

“All of us on the Return to Learn Advisory Council share a commitment to marrying science and evidence, and practicality and local needs to ensure the health and safety of our students and educators,” said Tonya Allen, President and CEO of The Skillman Foundation and Chair of the Return to Learn Advisory Council. “We will remain vigilant and flexible, helping ensure safety protocols are in place in every Michigan school.”

David Hecker, president of AFT Michigan, called the roadmap “a thoughtful, comprehensive plan” that puts health and safety of students and educators first.

“Our teachers and support staff are eager and ready to implement safety measures in our schools to ensure everyone who steps foot in them is protected from the spread of COVID-19,” Hecker said. “I applaud the governor’s leadership and unwavering commitment to our students during this time, and look forward to working closely with her as we continue to protect Michiganders from this virus.” 

Parents aren’t sure
Meanwhile, a report from the University of Michigan showed about one-third of parents surveyed don’t intend to send their children back to class in the fall.

The survey shows how uncomfortable many parents are to send their children back to school due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

U of M’s study found two-thirds of parents will be sending their children back to school. Black, Hispanic and Asian parents were less likely to say they will send their children to school, compared to White and non-Hispanic parents.

As school districts prepare for a radically different return, the study found nearly two-thirds of parents supported the following proposals:

  • Decreasing the number of children on buses.
  • Alternating between in-person and virtual classes.
  • Staggering arrival and pickup times.
  • Random weekly COVID-19 testing for staff members.