Governor announces next steps toward reopening schools in the fall

LANSING – Today, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Michigan schools may resume in-person learning in phase 4 of the MI Safe Start plan, with strict safety measures in place.

The governor also announced that on June 30, she will release an executive order and 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.

The governor also highlighted the need for support and flexibility from the federal government to help ensure resources for students and educators.

“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. “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 closely with the MI Safe Start Plan. The governor will consider the six phases of the MI Safe Start Plan and the Michigan Economic Recover Council’s 8 regions of the state to determine when, where, and how face-to-face instruction can resume. Districts, students, staff, and families must be nimble and be prepared to move backwards if there is evidence of community spread of the virus.

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.”

On May 15, Whitmer signed Executive Order No. 2020-88 creating the COVID-19 Return to School Advisory Council. 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 to 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 develop and submit recommendations to the COVID-19 Task Force on Education regarding the safe, equitable, and efficient K-12 return to school in the Fall.

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 community members, educators, parents, and students who will work closely with the governor as she continues to put the health and safety of our students and educators first. – G.G.