An Overview of Governor Whitmer’s MI Safe Schools: Return to School Roadmap

Michigan’s Governor Gretchen Whitmer has tackled the COVID-19 pandemic in her state with the safety of Michigan residents in mind. Her approach is no different when discussing opening up Michigan schools in the fall. She hasn’t shied away from her stance on following data and science when making decisions.

She tweeted on July 9th, “I want to make this clear — I will not send our kids and our education workforce into our schools unless it is safe to do so, plain and simple. I have made decisions based on science and facts to keep Michiganders safe since the beginning, and won’t stop now.”

With the help of educators, administrators, students and other Michigan experts, the MI Safe Schools: Return to School Roadmap was created. It is formatted to give guidelines to Michigan school districts about how to navigate the school year depending on what phase their regions are in at that time.

Here’s a breakdown of the MI Safe Schools: Return to School Roadmap:

Phase 1 to Phase 3:

If Michigan regions are in any of these three phases, COVID-19 is not managed, and cases and deaths are still rising.

  • Schools will not be opened for in-person instruction. All instruction must be provided remotely.
  • School administrators and teachers can utilize school premises to conduct virtual learning.
  • All athletics are cancelled for the season.
  • Food distribution plans are implemented for student and family pick up.

Phase 4:

In this phase the number of new COVID-19 cases have plateaued, however the virus is still highly prevalent, with a high risk for outbreaks.

  • In person instruction is permitted with strict health and safety protocols.
  • Alternative hybrid instruction, to stagger the number of students in person each day, is permitted.
  • Facial coverings must be worn by staff and students prek-12 grade who have the ability to wear them in all common areas.
  • Facial coverings must be worn by staff and students 6-12 grade who have the ability to wear them during class.
  • Desks must be spaced six feet apart, all arranged forward if possible.
  • Increased hygiene should be implemented, with adequate supplies such as soap, hand sanitizer, paper towels and tissues.
  • Designated screening and quarantine protocols should be outlined and followed if a student or staff member shows symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Guidelines for athletics outlined by the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) should be followed.
  • High-touch areas and common areas should be cleaned at least every 4 hours with a disinfectant.

Phase 5:

In this phase, new cases and deaths are continuously decreasing over time, there is widespread testing available and outbreaks are being contained by contact tracing.

  • Schools are fully open to in-person instruction.
  • Facial coverings must be worn by staff and students prek-12 grade who have the ability to wear them in all common areas.
  • It is suggested that facial coverings be worn in classrooms by staff and students in 6-12 grade when possible.
  • Maintain increased hygiene procedures with adequate supplies such as soap, hand sanitizer, paper towels and tissues available.
  • Spacing desks six feet apart, all facing the same forward direction is still recommended when possible.
  • Designated screening and quarantine protocols should be outlined and followed if a student or staff member shows symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Guidelines for athletics outlined by the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) should be followed, with indoor spectator events being limited to 50 people and outdoor events limited to 250 people.
  • High-touch areas and common areas should be cleaned at least every 4 hours with a disinfectant.

Phase 6:

This is the final phase, meaning the virus is ultimately under control with few to no local active COVID-19 cases, and increased safety protocols are no longer needed.

  • School will be back in session fully in-person.
  • Personal protective equipment for staff and students, such as masks, are no longer required.
  • Cleaning and hygiene standards will remain in place, including ensuring access to adequate supplies suchs as hand sanitizer, soap, and paper towels.
  • There are no longer spacing requirements between desks and students can move freely through common areas.
  • Athletics can operate at full capacity.
  • Designated screening and quarantine protocols should be outlined and followed if a student or staff member shows symptoms of COVID-19.

These guidelines are in place for school districts to lean on as they make their final plans leading into the fall. However, many parents, teachers, administrators and students alike are still understandably struggling with the decision on whether to return to in-person learning as the school year quickly approaches.

To read the full MI Safe Schools: Return to School Roadmap, head here.

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