Today, Governor Gretchen Whitmer released MI Safe Schools: Michigan’s 2020- 21 Return to School Roadmap. The extensive document outlines a series of requirements and recommendations for reopening schools this fall. Totaling 63 pages, the document is comprehensive and was accompanied by Executive Order 2020-142, which provides the legal framework for the Preparedness Plans schools will have to develop in order to reopen.
The plan retains much of the structure originally laid out in the MI Safe Start plan, including the six-phase approach and the eight regions created in that plan. Under the requirements announced today, schools will be required to develop and post three plans for the fall, depending on what phase of reopening their region of the state is in:
- Phase 1-3: Fully remote instruction
- Phase 4: In-person instruction with strict health and safety protocols
- Phase 5: In-person instruction with more flexible health and safety protocols
The plans must accommodate issues related to instruction, health and safety protocols, mental and social emotional wellbeing, and operations. With regard to health and safety protocols specifically, the Roadmap outlines requirements and recommendations across a variety of areas from personal protective equipment and hygiene to health screening for students and staff to athletics to transportation.
A report of this scope does not lend itself to easy summary, but some key highlights schools will want to know include:
The plan relies heavily on the use of face coverings (i.e. masks) and cleaning and hygiene as the primary protective measures in schools in phases 4 and 5. In particular, in phase 4 (where most of the state is right now):
- Facial coverings must always be worn by staff except for meals.
- Facial coverings must be worn by PK-12 students, staff, and bus drivers during school transportation.
- Facial coverings must always be worn in hallways and common areas by PK-12 students in the building except for during meals.
- Facial Coverings must be worn in classrooms by all staff and students grade 6-12 only.
- If social distancing and cohorting is practiced and enforced, facial coverings for students in grades preK-5 are encouraged but not required.
The plan does not expressly prohibit any particular sports, but rather relies on strict enforcement of safety protocols to protect athletes. For example, the limitations imposed at phase 4 closely resemble those currently enforced on summer practices (social distancing, gathering size, equipment sharing and disinfection, closure of indoor weight rooms, etc.). It also empowers the MHSAA to develop additional regulations as necessary.
Despite early projections about students being required to maintain six foot social distancing at all times, the final Roadmap does not enforce social distancing in classrooms or on busses. Rather, the plan relies on face coverings, personal hygiene, and cleaning protocols as the primary method of maintaining student and staff safety in phases 4 and 5. In person instruction would be suspended in phase 3 or earlier, making those issues moot.
The Roadmap itself and EO 2020-142 are available online as is an FAQ. See the links below.