Whitmer creates the Student Recovery Advisory Council

LANSING — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed Executive Order 2021-02 last week to create the Student Recovery Advisory Council of Michigan. As Michigan continues to work around the clock to eliminate COVID-19, the Student Recovery Council will provide guidance and recommendations to ensure Michigan students have the tools and resources they need to get back on track.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has hit Michigan hard, and our students, families, teachers, and school staff have all felt the strain. Still, our educators have worked tirelessly to teach our children during this pandemic under the most stressful conditions, and for that our state is forever indebted to them for their service,” said Whitmer. “It is important to remember that schools also provide other services that students need to succeed including reliable access to the internet, nutritious meals, and mental health supports. COVID-19 has exacerbated inequities in our education system, and we know more work is needed to address the significant impact this pandemic has had on our children. This Council will be integral to ensuring our students and educators are equipped with everything they need to thrive.”

Last summer, the governor launched the Return to School Advisory Council which developed a framework to inform K-12 districts planning for the 2020- 2021 school year. This past month, the governor’s administration prioritized educators for vaccine distribution in Michigan, in order to get kids back in school and put our state on a path to recovery.

“It is an honor to serve as the chairperson of the Student Recovery Advisory Council,” said Kevin Polston, chair of the Student Recovery Advisory Council. “Last summer, this collaborative group of engaged citizens developed the MI Safe School Roadmap, which was vital to supporting in-person learning. We look forward to ‘fixing the road ahead’ for the state of Michigan through a safe, equitable, and high-performance educational system that provides access and opportunity for each child to reach their full potential.”

“While the pandemic has underscored the critical importance of face-to-face learning for our society, it also has spotlighted vast differences in the challenges that students, families, and communities face,” said Ridgway White, president and CEO of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation in Flint and a philanthropic representative to the Advisory Council. “Instead of thinking of going back to school, I hope we can focus on moving education forward in Michigan and ensuring that educators have the resources they need to meet all students where they are.”

Housed within the Department of Technology Management and Budget, the council will be composed of 29 members from diverse backgrounds who are appointed by the governor. The Council is tasked with:

Developing and submitting recommendations to the governor, state superintendent, and state budget director regarding student recovery.

Recommending actions to develop and improve systems for academic support for students who experienced learning loss due to COVID-19.

Recommending actions to develop and improve systems for mental and physical health for students impacted by COVID- 19.

Recommending actions to develop and improve systems to support high school students transitioning into postsecondary education.

Recommending actions to develop and improve out-of-school time supports, including, but not limited to, summer school, before and after school programs, and extended school years.

Assembling critical voices from the education and public health communities to assist in identifying key challenges students face due to the pandemic.

Providing other information or advice or take other actions as requested by the governor.

Reporting regularly to the governor on its activities and make recommendations on an ongoing basis.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us how important our education system is to the success of our children. As a pediatrician, I provide comprehensive care to my patients and their families, of which school success is an important component,” said Dr. Gwen Reyes, Director of the Pediatric Residency Program at Hurley’s Children’s Hospital in Flint, who Whitmer named to serve on the board. “Being part of the Return to School Advisory Council is a perfect example of the collaborative and interdisciplinary approach we must take in order to understand the diverse impact of the pandemic and move forward. I am honored to be part of the ongoing work and recovery for our children and hope the Student Recovery Advisory Council serves as a foundation to ongoing collaborative work in the future.” — G.G.