LANSING, Mich. (WXYZ) — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced today the next steps for schools to re-open in the fall, and said schools may resume in-person learning as part of phase 4 of the MI Safe Start plan.
The state is currently in phase 4, with two other regions, Traverse City and the Upper Peninsula in phase 5.
According to the governor's office, Whitmer will release an executive order and a plan called "Michigan's Return to School Roadmap" that will lay out details on what will be required and recommended for schools.
That's expected to be released on June 30.
“Our students and educators have made incredible sacrifices these past few months to protect themselves and their families from the spread of COVID-19,” Whitmer said. “Thanks to our aggressive action against this virus, those who have done their part to flatten the curve, and the heroes on the front lines, I am optimistic that we will return to in-person learning in the fall. Schools must make sure to 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 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.”
The Return to School plan will align with the MI Safe Start Plan, and Whitmer said she will consider the six phases of the plan and the eight regions to determine when, where and how face-to-face instruction can resume.
She said districts, students and staff will have to be prepared to move backwards if there is evidence of community spread.
The roadmap will set the minimum health and safety requirements, although districts may choose to enact more aggressive ones in consultation with local public health officials. These minimum requirements will apply to all schools, including traditional public, charter, private and parochial schools.
The governor last month created the Return to School Advisory Council to identify issues that needed to be addressed. That council will advise the governor and the COVID-19 task force on education on the plan.
On that council, there are 25 leaders in health care and education.
According to John Helmholdt, Executive Director of Communications & External Affairs for GRPS, they are going to keep moving forward with the best information and expert advice they receive. They are expected to incoorporate recommendations including the minimal requirements and the broader recommendations where school districts can choose to go above and beyond.
Safety is not the only concern school districts have, but also potential funding cuts as a result of the pandemic. They need additional help from state and national leaders or they may have to make serious cuts during the school year.
"Public schools in Michigan now get their primary funding from sales tax." says Michael Shibler, Superintendent of Rockford Schools. "There is a huge deficit in the schooling fund and we have been lobbying hard with our state law makers and our federal law makers, U.S. congress and state congress that they need to provide stimulus dollars like they did the private sector."
Schools in Michigan have been closed for months since the pandemic began in March.
Watch the news conference