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Gov. Whitmer: K-12 schools should plan to reopen for in-person instruction this fall

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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Wednesday that Michigan schools may reopen under Phase 4 of the state's Safe Start Plan. 

The governor says she is optimistic schools will be able to reopen in the fall, with proper safety measures.

“Our students and educators have made incredible sacrifices these past few months to protect themselves and their families from the spread of COVID-19,” said Whitmer in a statement. "Schools must make sure to enact strict safety measures to continue protecting educators, students, and their families."

Governor Whitmer says she’s asked often about plans for the coming school year after classroom instruction was abruptly cancelled this past spring due to the COVID-19 crisis. She says schools will be allowed to re-open with additional precautions and an understanding that in-person learning could be again shut down if a region sees a spike in cases.

“We’ve got to be flexible in order to lower the chance of a second wave and mitigate how serious that second wave is.”

The state says it will release a "robust" document called “Michigan’s Return to School Roadmap” that will provide details on what will be required and what will be recommended for schools, along with an executive order from the governor, on June 30.

The roadmap will set the minimum health and safety requirements for all K-12 schools in the state, including traditional public, charter, private, and parochial schools.

The governor appointed a task force to make plans based on the new realities created by the COVID-19 crisis. Tonya Allen of the Skillman Foundation will lead the group. She says the job is difficult because different children will have different needs as they return to school.

“Like children who in rural communities, children who live in cities, children with special needs, children who are new to learning English, children whose parents may not be equipped to each them at home.”

Meanwhile, school budgets are due to the state by June 20. Schools can't estimate how many pupils they will have, due to pandemic uncertainty. And the state could also cut funding for the current fiscal year, because its own revenues are so uncertain.

Whitmer says Michigan will need federal support.

"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.” 

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
Emma is a communications specialist with the digital team at Michigan Radio. She works across all departments at Michigan Radio, with a hand in everything from digital marketing and fundraising to graphic design and website maintenance. She also produces the station's daily newsletter, The Michigan Radio Beat.