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Gov. Whitmer issues order closing K-12 schools through end of academic year

gretchen whitmer sitting at table
State of Michigan

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order Thursday morning that ends all face-to-face K-12 schooling for the 2019-20 academic year. 

Instead of meeting in person, the order establishes guidelines for distance learning, which will continue.

It will be left to intermediate and regional school districts to vet local districts' programs for approval, not the Michigan Department of Education. For charter schools, the corresponding charter school authorizer will approve the plans.

“My number one priority right now is protecting Michigan families from the spread of COVID-19," Whitmer said in a statement. “As a parent, I understand the challenge closing schools creates for parents and guardians across the state, which is why we are setting guidelines for schools to continue remote learning and ensuring parents have resources to continue their children’s education from the safety of their homes."

Local school districts will have to submit a "Continuity of Learning Plan" application, which will be made available Friday, April 3. The requirements for these plans will be flexible, and districts can collaborate on creating joint plans. 

According to the press release, "Every district’s plan will be different and will reflect what’s best and feasible for their community. A plan can include learning by any number of modes of instruction delivery, including a hybrid approach. However they are designed, districts must ensure their plans are appropriate, equitable and accessible for students and families."

The order also includes the caveat that in-person schooling can resume if the restrictions are lifted before the end of the academic year. Teachers and staff can also continue to use school buildings if they practice safe social distancing. 

Districts will also be able to begin the 2020/21 school before Labor Day without additional approval from the state.

High school seniors "will be given the opportunity to graduate this year so that they may make a successful postsecondary transition." All remaining standardized tests, including the M-STEP and SAT, will be canceled. The SAT will be rescheduled for October for all rising seniors, as will the PSAT.

Whitmer previously suspended face-to-face learning for K-12 schools until April 6. Universities across the state have already ended in-person education for the remainder of the semester.

This is a developing story.

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Emma is a communications specialist with the digital team at Michigan Radio. She works across all departments at Michigan Radio, with a hand in everything from digital marketing and fundraising to graphic design and website maintenance. She also produces the station's daily newsletter, The Michigan Radio Beat.
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