Today, Governor Whitmer issued Executive Order #2020-35, which suspends in-person instruction in all public, non-public and boarding schools for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year and lays the groundwork for schools to transition to distance learning, beginning with the development of a Continuity of Learning & COVID-19 Response Plan.

In her message, the Governor emphasized that we are in a public health crisis and the health, safety and well-being of our students and educators is the top priority. She acknowledged that certain rules governing K-12 education don’t make sense within the context of our current reality, but that education must continue and we have an obligation to our students to provide them opportunities to learn during the pandemic. As such, she has charged districts with developing a plan for educating students that is focused on compassion over compliance. She also recognized that  teaching, learning and the mode of delivering instruction will look different across districts; a one-size-fits-all approach is unrealistic. And when schools re-open for the 2020-21 school year, additional interventions and services will need to be provided to students.

With that charge in mind, here are the core details of the EO that educators need to know:

  • The state is forgiving 13 additional days of instruction (and the equivalent number of instructional hours) for the initial emergency school closure and waiving the 75% attendance requirement for all days of instruction after March 11 when the state of emergency was declared before schools were closed to students.
  • Districts will also be able to waive an additional five days of instruction (and the equivalent number of instructional hours) if districts need them to provide for professional development and other activities necessary to prepare for and transition to delivering instruction during the long-term closure.
  • These days are in addition to the current six days of forgiveness allowed for "conditions not within the control of school authorities" (i.e. snow days). Districts may also apply to the State Superintendent of Public Instruction for forgiveness of an additional three days and equivalent hours of instructional time.
  • For districts looking toward summer learning as an opportunity to recover lost face-to-face instruction time, the EO waives Michigan’s pre-Labor Day start prohibition for the 2020-21 school year. It also permits districts to implement a balanced calendar this school year without needing further approvals. The EO does account for the possibility that the Governor may lift the state of emergency before the end of the school year and declare conditions safe enough for students to return to the classroom. Schools would not be required, but could be allowed to return to face-to-face instruction if this were the case.
  • Moving forward, districts will develop and submit a Continuity of Learning & COVID-19 Response Plan as part of their COVID-19 Seat Time Waiver Application in order to waive days and hours requirements for the remainder of the school year. District response plans must account for the steps schools plan to take to educate all students for the remainder of the school year, including a plan for graduating seniors.
  • Districts will submit their response plans to their ISD. ISDs must be prepared to review local district plans beginning April 8. The ISDs will review and must approve the plan in order for the local district to receive a waiver. The form that districts will use for submitting their response plans will be available by this Friday, April 3.
  • Decisions regarding the awarding of credit, the issuance of grades, and the use of pass or fail designations will be made at the district level by districts with due recognition of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Districts must develop a plan/process to give grades to seniors, award credits needed for graduation, certify transcripts, and confer diplomas. Districts are encouraged to award credit based on prior learning and content mastery and/or utilize project based learning, a portfolio/resume approach, or a culminating activity. Districts must provide seniors who were failing a course or courses as of March 11 an opportunity (to the extent feasible) to demonstrate learning in the subject matter of the course and receive credit for the course.
  • Spring 2020 state assessments are cancelled as are all the state mandates associated with assessment including school accountability laws (A-F, third grade reading retention, Partnership District goal attainment) and educator evaluation.
  • Students who would have taken the PSAT/SAT this spring will instead have the opportunity to test in the fall. Those assessments will also not be tied to state accountability or evaluation.
  • School closure will not affect contributions or the accrual of service credits for MPSERS.
  • The EO permits and encourages districts to donate unused personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies and other materials to their local emergency management program.

While suspending in-person instruction and moving to distance learning is a difficult decision, MASSP supports the Governor's actions, which put the health and safety of students and educators first. Please know that we will continue to update members on the details of this new process as they become available. Know also that we are here to support you and advocate for you and our schools and students during this difficult time.

MASSP is convening Leader2Leader Round 3 today at 1 p.m. The details of the Executive Order will be reviewed by MASSP’s Bob Kefgen and participants will then have the opportunity to connect with colleagues from around the state to discuss and process today's announcement. Click here to register.