Whitmer suspends face-to-face classes for rest of year
April 3, 2020
By RICHARD JENKINS
LANSING - Michigan students almost certainly won't be returning to their classrooms this spring, after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Thursday she was canceling face-to-face classes for the remainder of the school year in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-35, which closed all K-12 school buildings for the rest of the school year - unless the COVID-19 or coronavirus pandemic ends - and set out guidelines for transitioning to remote learning.
"My No. 1 priority right now is protecting Michigan families from the spread of COVID-19. For the sake of our students, their families, and the more than 100,000 teachers and staff in our state, I have made the difficult decision to close our school facilities for the remainder of the school year," Whitmer said. "As a parent, I understand the challenge closing schools creates for parents and guardians across the state, which is why we are setting guidelines for schools to continue remote learning and ensuring parents have resources to continue their children's education from the safety of their homes. There is no video chat or homework packet that can replace the value of a highly trained, experienced teacher working with students in a classroom, but we must continue to provide equitable educational opportunities for students during this public health crisis."
Ironwood Superintendent Travis Powell echoed the governor's sentiments.
"While we understand why this order is needed, and we fully support the governor's efforts to keep us safe, we're saddened that traditional learning will be suspended for the rest of the school year," Powell said. "Teachers miss their students; students miss their teachers, and this order confirms that we won't be seeing each other face-to-face for awhile."
Prior to Thursday's announcement, K-12 schools around the state had been closed through April 13 in response to the pandemic.
The Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators and the Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers are currently developing a Continuity of Learning Plan template application that should be available today, according to Whitmer's announcement, that school districts can use to develop their plans for remote learning.
The respective intermediate school districts around the state, such as the Gogebic-Ontonagon Intermediate School District, will approve the plans for their member districts before they are implemented.
"Every district's plan will be different and will reflect what's best and feasible for their community. A plan can include learning by any number of modes of instruction delivery, including a hybrid approach," a spokesperson for the governor's office said in the announcement. "However they are designed, districts must ensure their plans are appropriate, equitable and accessible for students and families."
Those plans that include online learning should ensure every student has appropriate access to the required technology, according to Whitmer's office, and families won't be penalized if they can't participate in the alternative learning plan.
Powell said Ironwood has already begun working on its plan and hopes to submit it to the GOISD in the near future.
"Ironwood Area Schools has been closely monitoring the development of this crisis. We anticipated today's announcement and have been building our Continuity of Learning Plan in preparation for this direction from the state. Our plan will be submitted to the ISD for approval shortly, then rolled out to our community," he said. "It includes a blend of online and paper/pencil support materials and activities to engage our students in learning for the remainder of the year. Teachers have been using the time while we waited for government direction to improve their skills so they're ready to deliver distance learning to all of our students as soon as possible.
"Ironwood Area Schools is ready, willing and able to meet this challenge. Students and families will be served. Learning will continue, just in a different format. We're all in this together, and together we'll get through this trying time."
Under Thursday's order, districts also have the ability to adopt a balanced calendar for the 2019-2020 school year and/or begin next year before Labor Day without applying for a special waiver, according to the governor's office.
Teachers and other school employees will be paid for the remainder of the year, according to Whitmer's announcement and seniors around the state will be given the opportunity to apply for graduation. All standardized tests, including the SAT and M-STEP, are canceled.