Traverse City News and Events

Whitmer Closes K-12 Schools For Rest Of School Year, Sets Guidelines For Remote Learning

By Beth Milligan | April 3, 2020

As was widely speculated, Governor Gretchen Whitmer suspended in-person school Thusday for the rest of the 2019-20 school year. K-12 school buildings must remain closed to any gatherings and K-12 sports and extra-curricular activities suspended as long as any state of emergency/disaster remains in place. The order outlines a number of provisions to have districts use remote learning to finish out the school year and ensure students have access to technology, food, and mental health services necessary to see them through the semester. The order:

> Suspends the requirement that a district provide at least 1,098 hours and 180 days of student instruction, provided districts submit a plan for alternative modes of instruction for the rest of the year.

> District alternative education plans - which will be "locally driven" and reflect the needs of each individual district, Whitmer said - can include a variety of instruction, such as by phone, mail, and Internet. Districts with online instruction must ensure that students have access to a connected device capable of online instruction as much as possible, and cannot penalize a student who can't fully participate. A district’s plan must outline how student learning will be monitored and managed, as well as teacher input on the development of the plan. Plans must be implemented no later than April 28.

> Decisions regarding awarding credit, issuing grades, and using pass-fail designations will be left up to districts, as long as they take into consideration the impacts of the pandemic on students. Districts must develop a process to issue grades and award credits and diplomas to seniors, and to provide an option for seniors who were failing a certain course as of March 11 to prove their mastery of the material and earn credit for the class.

> Staff can be in school buildings to prepare or send instructional material as determined by district administrators. Social distancing protocols must still be followed by staff while in buildings, with remote work encouraged whenever possible. Parents can also visit buildings to gather equipment or materials for learning as determined by the district.

> Standard testing requirements in many situations have been waived, though A.P. students must be permitted to take examinations using an at-home testing option administered by the College Board.

> To mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on educational outcomes, districts may adopt year-round school or a year-round program for the 2020-2021 school year or start the 2020-2021 school year before the first Monday in September.

> Schools must provide for continued food distribution and mental health services to students, and continue to pay school employees as part of the alternative plan's implementation.

> State-approved nonpublic schools and homeschoolers are encouraged to continue online, remote, or home-based learning for the 2019-20 school year. To whatever degree possible, alternative instruction should also be made available to special education students and those with disabilities.

The full executive order is extensive and outlines numerous aspects of how district operations will function during the suspension. Whitmer also indicated Thursday that it's possible the state's Stay Home, Stay Safe executive order could be extended beyond April 13. The governor is currently seeking a 70-day extension on the state's emergency declaration from the legislature, which would extend her ability to issue new emergency orders and extend other orders.

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