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MI superintendent says state should plan now for post-COVID-19 schools

student writing on paper
Ben Mullins

State superintendent Michael Rice delivered a report on Tuesday to the Michigan State Board of Education where he offered recommendations on handling in-class and remote learning in the new school year.

Rice suggested Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the Legislature rely on last year’s student count and funding formula as a stop-gap plan for the new K-12 school budget. Rice says he has not given up hope on another round of financial assistance from Washington.

“This is a generation that is having its education interrupted,” he said. Rice also said there will be gaps and uncertainty associated with the COVID-19 crisis.

“I just don’t know what perfect in a pandemic is,” he said.

Rice says a divide in resources – especially tablets, phones, and access to high-speed internet – makes the challenge bigger in many rural and urban districts, and that’s a challenge that can no longer be ignored.

Michigan 2020-21 Teacher of the Year Owen Bondono, a ninth grade teacher instructor at Oak Park High School, also addressed the virtual meeting.

He said the loss of individual attention and the continued use of benchmark testing will leave some students behind.

“They have a lot of anxiety around that, and many of my students walk into the room having already given up because they know that the test is going to show the ways that they don’t measure up the standards that have been set for them.”

Bondono said the added stress of at-home learning without teachers available in-person will exacerbate that problem.

The state Senate is scheduled to meet Saturday and the state House on Monday to finalize back-to-school plans and send them to Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

*Correction: An earlier version of this story said the state House is meeting on Saturday. The Senate is meeting on Saturday, and the House is meeting on Monday. The story has been corrected above.

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Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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