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Michigan releases school re-opening plan for fall

Gretchen Whitmer at a podium
State of Michigan

The state's much-anticipated pandemic road map for returning to in-person K-12 instruction was released Tuesday.

The plan includes requirements that all school districts must follow, along with recommendations.  Districts will be permitted to institute stricter measures if they wish.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer says the road map was developed based on science, data, and public health evidence. She cautioned that the road map depends greatly on Michigan residents wearing masks in public, keep social distance from others, and keep their social groups small.

"What the upcoming school year will be like for our kids depends on each of us doing our part to flatten the COVID-19 curve," she said. "Please, continue to stay smart, stay safe, and take every recommended precaution so that our children can be safe in their classrooms this fall."

Michigan is currently in "Phase 4" of the governor's statewide reopening plan, which means the number of new COVID-19 new cases and deaths has fallen for a period of time, but overall case levels are still high.

If students return to the classroom in the fall when the state is still in Phase 4, teachers, staff and students will be required to wear masks, and social distancing, such as keeping students six feet apart in classrooms, will be strongly recommended.

Indoor assemblies and field trips will be prohibited, and frequently touched surfaces will have to be disinfected every four hours.

The road map loosens the requirements once the state has entered Phase 5 of the governor's statewide restart plan. Phase 5 means new cases and deaths continue to decrease, and rapid case investigation, contact tracing, and containment strategies cause new cases to continue to fall.

In that event, the wearing of masks by students and teachers, along with every four-hour disinfection of frequently touched surfaces is strongly recommended, but not required.

Paula Herbart is president of the state's largest teachers union, the Michigan Education Association. She expects some parents will take a wait-and-see approach when it comes to returning their kids to the classroom. She says many parents in European countries that reopened the schools waited a couple weeks, and then began coming back after it appeared to be safe.

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Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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