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Whitmer announces next steps for Michigan schools to reopen in the fall

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Posted at 10:54 AM, Jun 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-17 17:16:50-04

LANSING, Mich. (WXYZ) — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the next steps for schools to reopen in the fall, and said schools may resume in-person learning as part of phase 4 of the MI Safe Start Plan.

The state is currently in phase 4, with two other regions in phase 5.

According to the governor's office, Whitmer will release an executive order and a plan called "Michigan's Return to School Roadmap" that will lay out details on what will be required and recommended for schools. That's expected to be released on June 30.

“Our students and educators have made incredible sacrifices these past few months to protect themselves and their families from the spread of COVID-19,” Whitmer said in a release. “Thanks to our aggressive action against this virus, those who have done their part to flatten the curve, and the heroes on the front lines, I am optimistic that we will return to in-person learning in the fall. Schools must make sure to 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 leaders in health care to ensure we get this right, but we also need more flexibility and 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 when developing a return to school plan 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. This is a big step, and we will remain flexible to protect everyone who steps foot in a Michigan school.”

The Return to School plan will align with the MI Safe Start Plan, and Whitmer said she will consider the six phases of the plan and the 8 regions to determine when, where and how face-to-face instruction can resume.

She said districts, students and staff will have to be prepared to move backwards if there is evidence of community spread.

The Roadmap will set the minimum health and safety requirements, although districts may choose to enact more aggressive ones in consultation with local public health officials. These minimum requirements will apply to all schools, including traditional public, charter, private, and parochial schools.

“Our number one goal on this advisory council is 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 will remain vigilant and flexible and closely examine the data as we continue to make recommendations to the governor. This is a crisis unlike any we’ve seen before, and we are committed working closely together to ensure we get this right.”

The governor last month created the Return to School Advisory Council to identify issues that needed to be addressed. That council will advise the governor and the COVID-19 task force on education on the plan.

On that council, there are 25 leaders in healthcare and education.

Schools in Michigan have been closed for months since the pandemic began in March.

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