LANSING — On Tuesday, June 30, the state of Michigan and Governor Whitmer released the executive order “MI Safe Schools Roadmap”, putting an extensive safety plan in place before schools reopen in the fall for in-person instruction.
The protocol is a roadmap for all pre-K to 12 schools within the state and includes requirements as well as recommendations.
The required safety protocols must be implemented by all Michigan pre-K to 12 schools. Those protocols are the most feasible ones to minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19. Strongly recommended or recommended safety protocols are optional and should be implemented as appropriate.
For their part, as a part of the MI Safe Start phases, schools will open for in-person instruction in the fall in phases four through six with more stringent, moderate and minimal required safety protocols, respectively.
The plan recommends but does not require social distancing (including smaller class sizes and spacing students’ desks six feet apart). However, personal protective equipment and providing adequate supplies to support healthy hygiene behaviors are required.
The governor will consider the six phases of the MI Safe Start Plan and the Michigan Economic Recovery Council’s eight regions of the state to determine when, where and how face-to-face instruction can resume
“Our students, parents and educators have made incredible sacrifices during our battle with COVID-19,” Whitmer said. “Thanks to our aggressive action against this virus, the teachers who have found creative ways to reach their students and the heroes on the front lines, I am optimistic that we will return to in-person learning in the fall.”
Face masks are required to be worn by staff all the time except for meals. Facial coverings may be handmade or disposable level-one (basic) grade surgical masks. Any staff member who cannot tolerate a face mask will not be mandated to wear one.
Additionally, all pre-K to 12 students in the buildings must wear face masks during bus transportation, in hallways and common areas except for meals. Any staff or student who is unable to medically tolerate a facial covering must not wear one.
Students in grades 6-12 are required to wear a face mask in the classroom; and students in grades K-5 must wear facial covering unless students remain with their classes throughout the school day and do not come into close contact with students in another class.
Before the release of the “MI Safe Schools Roadmap”, some districts had planned to reduce class sizes for in-person learning, offer hybrid or online learning and more. It is not yet clear whether they’ll follow through with those plans now that the governor has offered leeway.
The plan also requires that students and staff must cooperate with the local health department regarding implementing protocols for screening. Other requirements prohibit indoor assemblies that bring together students from more than one classroom, as well as requiring the use of a hand sanitizer before entering the bus (hand sanitizer must be supplied on the bus).
It would be recommended that most meals be served in the classroom or outdoors, or that mealtimes would be staggered to allow social distancing in the cafeteria if it were being used.
Athletics would have to follow the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) guidance and rules. Spectators would be allowed if they wear face masks and maintain social distancing.
As the number of cases decreases and Whitmer opens up the state more, schools will be able to implement less severe requirements to strong recommendations or recommendations.
In addition to the roadmap, Whitmer also signed an executive order mandating schools to put a COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan in place, laying out how they will protect students and educators across the various phases of the Michigan Safe Start Plan.
Plans need to be approved by the school board and submitted to the state.
For more information on the MI Safe Schools Roadmap, visit the full plan at https://www.michigan.gov/documents/whitmer/MI_Safe_Schools_Roadmap_FINAL_695392_7.pdf