Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Wednesday that K-12 schools can reopen for in-person instruction as long as Michigan’s successful containment of the coronavirus doesn’t lapse, subject to safety rules she will announce June 30.
Schools closed in March and ended the academic year with online or other remote learning. The governor said schools may resume physical instruction during phase 4 of her restart plan. All of the state is in that stage or, in northern Michigan, where COVID-19 cases and deaths are low, a step further along.
School typically starts in late August or early September. A previously issued order by Whitmer gives districts more flexibility to adopt a year-round calendar for the 2020-21 school year or start before Labor Day as a way to help students catch up.
“Our intent is to resume in-person instruction, to do so in a way that is safe but also to make sure that as we get back to schools, as we return to work, that we have very clear guidance to what the minimum expectations are,” Whitmer said during a news conference.
In less than two weeks, the governor will issue an order providing details on what will be required to reopen schools and what will be recommended. She said schools will be free to implement more aggressive standards than what the state mandates.
Public schools face a July 1 deadline to adopt their budgets despite great uncertainty over state funding, which is down substantially due to lower tax revenues. Districts are planning for cuts despite the expectation that they will need more aid to have smaller, socially distanced classes and to provide masks during the pandemic.
Also Wednesday, Whitmer — whom Republicans have accused of going too far with some stay-at-home restrictions or not restarting the economy more quickly — pointed to data showing Michigan’s success in curbing the virus as it surges in many other states. Michigan was an early hot spot and has reported the seventh-highest per-capita death rate among states, but the situation has improved markedly since.
“We are seeing spikes across the country, in Texas and Arizona and more — the Carolinas,” she said. “But because the vast majority of Michiganders are doing the right thing by staying home and staying safe and staying informed, we’re not yet seeing another spike here and that is good for everyone and for our economy.”