Every year in August, Michigan's beleaguered secondary principals are faced with the challenge of figuring out which state laws they need to worry about, what changed, and whether they are in compliance or not.  With that in mind, we've compiled a short summary of the various questions that have come to our inboxes so far this August with answers (or at least the best information we have). Welcome to MASSP's Fact or Crap: Back to School 2021 Edition!

Issue #1: Students have to wear masks on school busses.
FACT. Per the CDC, "​​passengers and drivers must wear a mask on school buses, including on buses operated by public and private school systems, subject to the exclusions and exemptions in CDC’s Order." This is actually not covered in the rules for schools, but in the rules for public transit 9which the CDC says includes school busses). You can find the details in the FAQ portion of the CDC's "Requirement for Face Masks on Public Transportation Conveyances and at Transportation Hubs" website.

Issue #2: The masking rules for school nurses are not the same as the rules for other school staff.
FACT (we think). While there are CURRENTLY no state or federal order mandating masking at school, MASSP has been advised that school nurses are likely covered by OSHA's Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for healthcare and related industries. If you've been to a doctor's office recently, you probably noticed that you had to mask up because of this same set of rules. If your district has a school nurse, this webinar from the law firm Miller Johnson goes into the details of the ETS. We urge districts to check with their local legal counsel about the applicability of these rules in your specific situation.

Issue #3: Schools need to administer benchmark reading assessments to 9th graders.
CRAP. The requirement to administer benchmark assessments in reading and math only applies K-8. However, any confusion likely comes because the reading test itself must be able to test K-9, even though there is no requirement to administer it to 9th graders. This requirement also was in place last year and the language hasn't changed. It’s a poorly written and funky bit of statute, but the bottom line is the requirement to administer only applies to K-8. See MCL 388.1704h, sections (1)(a)(i) and (ii) for the specific statutory language.

Issue #4: Schools are required to have staff certified in CPR.
CRAP, but maybe also FACT. There is no law we can find that simply and directly requires that schools have staff certified in CPR. There is such a law for child care centers, but not schools. However, one piece of the seclusion and restraint law that passed several years ago (MCL 380.1307g) requires that districts identify "sufficient key personnel to ensure that trained personnel are generally available for an emergency situation" and those key personnel must be trained in CPR and first aid, among other things. That does not specifically require that you have staff in every building, but I would definitely consult with your local legal counsel on what the word "sufficient" means. Additionally, MCL 29.19 (the fire drill law) requires that the emergency response plans for school buildings that include grades 9-12 include "a training plan for the use of an automated external defibrillator and in cardiopulmonary resuscitation techniques." Again, no requirement for any staff to actually be trained, but a strong push in that direction. Finally, since 2004, all new teachers must successfully complete a CPR class and hold a CPR certification as a condition of receiving their initial teaching certificate (see MCL 380.1531d). So, depending on the makeup of your staff, you may already have CPR certified staff in your building sufficient to meet the indirect requirements listed above. So, our advice is to reference your district's seclusion and restraint/emergency intervention plan to see who is listed as "key personnel," cross reference it with your building emergency response plan (hopefully both of these documents exist and align), then make sure those folks listed in those plans have a current CPR certification.

Issue #5: All student IDs must have a suicide prevention hotline printed on them.
FACT. Beginning this school year, schools need to ensure that student IDs have a suicide prevention hotline number printed on them. Specifically, beginning on October 15, 2021, school districts "shall ensure that each school...that offers any of grades 6 to 12 and that provides identification cards to pupils...includes on each identification card...a local, state, or national suicide prevention hotline telephone number printed on it." The law (MCL 380.1893) passed in the middle of fall semester 2020, so don't feel bad if this is news to you (there were a few things going on back then). If you get your student IDs through our partners at Lifetouch, you are already covered since they are planning to include this information on all their ID cards this school year. See MASSP's full article on this new law for details. 

Issue #6:All students in grades 8-12 are required to take a PSAT or SAT test this fall.
CRAP. Per MCL 388.1704g, schools are required to provide the OPPORTUNITY for all students in grades 9-12 (see note) to take the corresponding College Board exam to their grade level. Students are NOT required to participate in this testing. If a student chooses to participate, the test will be paid for by the state. Here is a list of the tests students qualify for by their grade level this school year:

  • 9th- PSAT 8/9 (disclosed form, students/school will see questions when results are available)
  • 10th- PSAT/NMSQT (disclosed form, but not disclosed for the Saturday test)
  • 11th- PSAT/NMSQT (disclosed form, but not disclosed for the Saturday test)
  • 12th- SAT

10th and 11th grade students may test in the same room. Accommodations must be entered by August 28. For more information check out this Leader2Leader webinar with the College Board.

NOTE: Technically, the budget language around this requirement says it applies to students who were in grades 8-11 in the 2020-21 school year. This will almost always mean the students are in grades 9-12 this school year, but it could include an 8th grader if that student was retained and it may not cover a fifth year senior. Districts should double check with MDE if they have questions.

Issue #7: SAT day is on Wednesday this year, not Tuesday, and WorkKeys has moved to Thursday.
FACT. In response to feedback from the field MDE has moved the initial test dates for PSAT and SAT to Wednesday starting in 2022. You can find the full testing calendar for spring 2022 here.

Issue #8: Schools need to establish "education goals" for the 2021-22 school year beyond what is in your SIP/DIP.
FACT. Section 98b (MCL 388.1698b) of this year's School Aid budget requires local districts and ISDs to establish educational goals expected to be achieved for the 2021-22 school year for the school by not later than September 15, 2021. Building leaders for each building in a district are required to develop these in conjunction with all teachers and school administrators of the school. The law requires two sets of goals. One must reflect what students are expected to achieve by not later than the middle of the 2021-22 school year and the other must reflect what students are expected to achieve by not later than the last day of the 2021-22 school year. There are several specific requirements that also apply to these goals. Those are covered in this memo from MDE that went out to the field. Due to the short timeline, MDE is encouraging districts to use existing goals to meet the legislated requirements of this section, including but not limited to school improvement goals, district improvement goals, MICIP submitted goals, local district strategic planning goals, and previously measured COVID-19 learning goals. In other words, this may be just another reporting requirement if you already have goals for your building that meet the statutory requirements, but it's not something you can afford to overlook.

This is far from an exhaustive list of the many things that Principals have to deal with and check in on at the start of every school year. So if you don't see your issue here (e.g. drills, teacher evaluations, PD for new teachers, etc.), that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. We've done our best to capture the changes and the specific questions we've received in this back-to-school season. As an additional support, MASSP also publishes a monthly Principals Checklist that we update each school year to help you keep track of the many things that you may need to check up on. You can find the Checklists that have been released so far for the 2021-22 school year here. You can also find our full Principals Checklist archive here.