The executive directors of the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals, the Michigan Association of Superintendents & Administrators, the Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators, and the Michigan Association of School Boards today released the following statement calling on the legislature to take action to ensure that Michigan schools can operate safely and efficiently in the 2020-21 school year.
“As we all know, Michiganders are being asked to mask-up and maintain social distancing in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. And while we can appreciate the legislature leading by example – in this instance – by canceling committee hearings and session, the timing couldn’t be any worse. Staff at our ISDs and RESAs, districts, and individual school buildings across the state are still hard at work every day making plans to continue the essential service of educating our 1.5 million students, and they need answers and direction.
Planning for the fall is already difficult enough in these unprecedented times, but without a budget nor any clear idea of how many pupils will be enrolled sets school districts up for failure. We recognize there’s no silver bullet or single change that will allow districts to continue to provide rigorous instruction while their operating models change. However, there are three specific actions lawmakers can and should take now that would give districts some much-needed stability heading into the coming year:
- Local district funding should not be reduced because of changes in pupil enrollment due to COVID-19. We request that the legislature make the necessary changes in law to allow districts to use their pupil membership count from the previous fiscal year.
- Despite the best efforts of our districts, the reality is that many parents may choose not to send their children to school this year. What’s more, that many districts are considering alternative schedule structures that will drastically limit the number of students attending school in person at any one time. The law needs to be revised to remove the 75% attendance threshold in existing statute to reflect the current situation schools are facing.
- Considering current circumstances, districts need flexibility to find innovative ways to educate their students. Many districts are pursuing alternative schedule structures or non-traditional instructional methods in order to ensure learning continues while protecting the health of their students and staff. They should not face penalties because of it.
Time is of the essence and swift action is needed to bring our state’s laws in step with our current reality and needs. Michigan students, parents, and schools need and deserve some certainty as they finalize plans for the coming school year. And if action doesn’t come from the legislature soon, then we look to Governor Whitmer or State Superintendent Rice to use the powers at their disposal and make a move.”
Helpful Resources: MSPRA's Communication Toolkit Return to School Part 3
MSPRA is pleased to release Section III of its Toolkit for Communicating about Return to School Plans to support schools in their communication to students, parents, union leaders, staff and board representatives, community members, the media and others about their individual return to school roadmaps (which includes their official COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plans as outlined in Executive Order 2020-142). Thanks to those members who contributed to this section.
This third of three parts coincides with the Opportunity Labs Roadmap and the Michigan Association of Intermediate School Association’s General Education Leadership Network’s Continuity of Learning - Back to School Guidance timeframes:
- Do First - Section I of the toolkit was released July 15, 2020. It is designed to help schools communicate with target audiences to highlight work being done over the summer to prepare for various return to school scenarios.
- Do Before Schools Open - Section II of the toolkit released July 23, 2020, is designed to help schools communicate with target audiences to help them understand what school will look like in the fall, describe health and safety procedures, outline educational options and explain closure processes, should they be needed.
- When Schools are Open and Operating - Section III of the toolkit released today, August 6, 2020 provides communication resources to support schools as they share important information and updates relative to school operations as Michigan moves through the phases of the MI Safe Start Plan.
All three parts of the toolkit are linked above, and can also be found at www.mspra.org. (Please feel free to share them with your colleagues.)
All three documents have been reviewed by representatives from the Michigan Department of Education, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the Michigan Association of Superintendents and Administrators, and the Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators. All sample materials have been used with permission and are intended to serve as examples of what could be tailored to individual district situations and needs.
- As your district communicates, always consider your school’s policies, codes of conduct, local community needs and local climate as you address the information needs of your stakeholders.
- This toolkit and its parts are designed to help guide your communication, highlighting some of the ways school districts may choose to communicate about this important issue. When in doubt, consult legal counsel.
- It is essential to recognize that COVID-19 is a public health issue. Please direct questions or inquiries about health guidelines to your local health department.