Today, Governor Gretchen Whitmer released the MI Safe Schools Return to School Roadmap, a comprehensive document to help districts create local plans for in-person learning in the fall. The Roadmap outlines a number of safety protocols for schools to implement in each phase of the governor’s MI Safe Start Plan. The governor also signed Executive Order 2020-142, which provides a structure to support all schools in Michigan as they plan for a return of PreK-12 education in the fall.
“Our students, parents, and educators have made incredible sacrifices during our battle with COVID-19,” said Governor Whitmer. “Thanks to our aggressive action against this virus, the teachers who have found creative ways to reach their students, and the heroes on the front lines, I am optimistic that we will return to in-person learning in the fall. The MI SafeSchools Return to School Roadmap will help provide schools with the guidance they need as they 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 experts in epidemiology and public health to ensure we get this right, but we also need more flexibility and financial 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 most important thing we can do as we prepare to reopen school buildings in the fall is closely examine the data and remain vigilant in our steps to fight this virus,” said MDHHS Chief Deputy for Health and Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun. “I will continue to work closely with Governor Whitmer and the Return to Learn Advisory Council to ensure we continue to put the health and safety of our students and educators first. We will remain nimble to protect students, educators, and their families.”
Executive Order 2020-142 requires school districts to adopt a COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan laying out how they will protect students and educators across the various phases of the Michigan Safe Start Plan. The MI Safe Schools Return to School Roadmap offers guidelines as to the types of safety protocols that will be required or recommended at each phase. In recognition that these protocols will cost money, the Governor also announced that she was allocating $256 million to support the districts in implementing their local plans as part of the bipartisan budget agreement the Senate Majority Leader, the Speaker of the House, and the governor announced yesterday.
The safety protocols detailed in the MI Safe Schools Roadmap includes guidance on the use of PPE, good hygiene, cleaning/disinfecting, spacing in classrooms, screening for symptoms, athletics, and more. The Roadmap also recognizes the impact COVID-19 has had on students’ and educators’ metal health, and offers guidance on how schools can address this issue.
Governor Whitmer will continue to use the MI Safe Start Plan as the highest-level governing framework for determining if and when it is safe to resume in-person instruction.
“All of us on the Return to Learn Advisory Council share a commitment to marrying science and evidence, and practicality and local needs to ensure the health and safety of our students and educators,” said Tonya Allen, President and CEO of The Skillman Foundation and Chair of the Return to Learn Advisory Council. “We are proud to have a leader in the governor’s office who is committed to working with parents, teachers, and students to make sure we get this right. We will remain vigilant and flexible, helping ensure safety protocols are in place in every Michigan school.”
“The governor’s MI Safe Schools Roadmap is a thoughtful, comprehensive plan that puts the health and safety of our students and educators first, balancing this priority with the importance of in-school education,” said David Hecker, President of AFT Michigan. “Our teachers and support staff are eager and ready to implement safety measures in our schools to ensure everyone who steps foot in them is protected from the spread of COVID-19. I applaud the governor’s leadership and unwavering commitment to our students during this time, and look forward to working closely with her as we continue to protect Michiganders from this virus.”
On June 3, the governor announced a group of 25 leaders in health care and education to serve on the COVID-19 Return to Learn Advisory Council. The council is chaired by Tonya Allen, and includes public health experts, a pediatrician, educators, school administrators, school board members, community leaders, parents, and students. The Council will continue to work closely with the governor as she continues to put the health and safety of our students and educators first. On June 17, 2020, Governor Whitmer announced that Michigan schools may resume in-person learning in phase 4 of the MI Safe Start plan, with strict safety measures in place.
The Advisory Council was created to identify the critical issues that must be addressed, provide valuable input to inform the process of returning to school, and ensure a smooth and safe transition back to school. The Council will act in an advisory capacity to the Governor and the COVID-19 Task Force on Education, and will continue to develop recommendations regarding the safe, equitable, and efficient K-12 return to school in the Fall.