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State education department: Online schooling won't count toward annual requirement

Posted at 11:59 AM, Mar 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-20 20:13:37-04

LANSING, Mich. (WXYZ) —

The Michigan Department of Education issued a memo on Friday saying that online schooling happening during the COVID-19 outbreak won't count toward the annual hourly requirements for students.

Gov. Whitmer closed K-12 schools in the state from March 16 through at least April 6 amid the COVID-19 outbreak, and many schools have switched to online instruction.

"There is no mechanism to earn instructional time during a period of mandated school closure. However, schools can and are encouraged to offer supplemental learning opportunities to students using distance learning methods as they see fit. MDE will not be granting seat time waiver requests during this time," the memo from Deputy State Superintendent Vanessa Kessler said.

The state requires districts to provide at least 1,098 hours of instruction to students for 180 days each year. The state also said it won't grant seat time waiver requests at this time.

“This is a necessary step to protect our kids, our families, and our overall public health,” Whitmer said in a release when closing schools. “I am working with partners across state government to ensure educators, parents, and students have the support they need during this time, and to ensure our children who rely on school for meals have access to food. I know this will be a tough time, but we’re doing this to keep the most people we can safe. I urge everyone to make smart choices during this time and to do everything they can to protect themselves and their families.”

“Closing our K-12 school buildings is the responsible choice that will minimize the risk of exposure for children, educators, and families and mitigate the spread of coronavirus,” Michigan State Superintendent Michael Rice added at the time. “The Department of Education will continue to work closely with our partners in state government to help our students and educators in each school district get through this time. This is about protecting the most people in Michigan.”

Governor Whitmer released the following statement about the memo Friday evening:

Earlier today the Michigan Department of Education issued a memo regarding Instructional Time During School Closure. I know it caused a lot of confusion and panic among schools, teachers, students, and families. I wanted to provide some clarification from the perspective of the Governor’s Office.

The memo does not mean that school work done during the mandatory school closure won’t 'count' toward grades, credits, or graduation. Each district should determine what services and supports they are able to provide during this unprecedented crisis. Many are focusing on meeting basic needs and are working around the clock to provide breakfast and lunch for hungry students. Other districts have the ability to provide more learning support as a result of one-to-one technology initiatives. I am in awe of the work that school employees are doing to support their kids and I applaud their efforts.

As you know, the situation has changed rapidly over the course of the past ten days. We do not know what the future will hold, but we are absolutely committed to ensuring the needs of our students, parents, and families are met as we navigate these uncharted waters. I will be working in the coming days to ensure our seniors graduate and that no child is held back as a result of our ability to provide face-to-face instruction during the COVID-19 school closure.

To teachers, administrators, and support staff – I thank you for stepping up and helping your students and families.

To students and especially parents, hang in there. We will get through this.