In today’s update:

  • Whitmer Signs “Stay Home, Stay Safe” Executive Order, Extends School Closures Through April 13
  • MDE Receives Federal Waivers for Testing and Accountability
  • Speaker Chatfield Sends List of Reforms to Gov. Whitmer
  • USDOE Releases Supplemental Fact Sheet
  • Whitmer Clarifies MDE Statement on Instructional Time
  • Other
  • MASA COVID-19 Resource Center

Gov. Whitmer Signs “Stay Home, Stay Safe” Executive Order, Extends School Closures Through April 13

Today Gov. Whitmer signed the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” Executive Order to protect Michiganders across the state. Effective at 12:01 am on March 24, 2020, for at least the next three weeks, individuals may only leave their home or place of residence under very limited circumstances, and they must adhere to social distancing measures recommended by the CDC.

The order will last until midnight on Monday, April 13. If schools are able to resume, Tuesday, April 14 will be the first day back.

While the order extends school closures until at least April 13, 2020, educators supporting public and private K-12 schools for purposes of facilitating distance learning or performing other essential functions, including food services, are considered essential workforce. If your spring break fell within the closure period, you may continue to provide food services (per previous MDE statements and guidance). Further, we have asked and been told that districts may continue to deliver food if that is part of your feeding program as long as exposure precautions continue to be observed.

We ask that you please continue to operate under rules for social distancing and continue to do what you are able to support students and their families during this time. MASA staff will continue to share guidance as it becomes available.

Read the full statement from MASA.

The governor’s office issued the following statement this afternoon:

“Gov. Whitmer is committed to ensuring that Michigan students have access to the food they need during the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the governor’s executive order, K-12 school food services are considered critical infrastructure and should continue. The governor deeply appreciates the vital work that our frontline school employees are doing every day to ensure that our kids have the food they need while the order is in effect.”

MDE Receives Federal Waivers for Testing and Accountability

 The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) received preliminary approval over the weekend from the U.S. Department of Education to waive a number of federal requirements for statewide student testing and school accountability. Read the full press release.

State Board of Education President Dr. Casandra Ulbrich and State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos on March 17, to urge the secretary to grant a nationwide waiver of statewide student assessments in favor of focusing on the more immediate needs of children.

The U.S. Department of Education responded last Friday by offering every state the opportunity to submit expedited waiver requests for a number of federal testing and accountability requirements. MDE submitted its request late Friday afternoon.

“We are pleased that the U.S. Department of Education heard our call to waive the federal requirement for statewide student testing,” Dr. Rice said. “We now need the Michigan legislature to amend state law that requires statewide testing and accountability.”

Speaker Chatfield Sends List of Reforms to Gov. Whitmer

 Over the weekend, Speaker of the House Rep. Lee Chatfield, sent to Gov. Whitmer a list of reforms designed to improve public health and provide short-term assistance to Michigan families struggling with the impact of COVID-19. He provided the following list of items pertaining to education:

  • “Expand Cyber Charter School Enrollment: With students potentially missing in-person instruction at brick and mortar school, expanding enrollment in cyber charter schools and providing supplemental funding for those who enroll during the crisis could assist student with progressing to the next grade on time.
  • Instructional Time for Online or Distance Learning Opportunities: If school is cancelled for an extended period of time, districts should be allowed to provide online instruction to all students to earn instructional hours towards the required days and hours of instructional time.
  • Online Teaching/ Learning Professional Development: If online or distance learning instruction should count towards the day and hours requirement, provide teachers and/or parents with development courses on how to teach students online or through distance learning practices. Michigan Virtual University should be able to scale up access to online professional development for teachers or parents.
  • Online Course Content: If needed, contract with an online course provider to provide universal access to grade-level appropriate content for all students during the emergency.”

MASA continues to advocate that any distance learning plan that is developed MUST include recognition of the fact that access to technology and internet is not universal in our state and that there are great inequities and disparities in this area.

USDOE Releases Supplemental Fact Sheet

Over the weekend, USDOE released a Supplemental Fact Sheet about addressing the risk of COVID-19 in schools while serving children with disabilities.

Most notably, the memo states: “At the outset, OCR and OSERS must address a serious misunderstanding that has recently circulated within the educational community. As school districts nationwide take necessary steps to protect the health and safety of their students, many are moving to virtual or online education (distance instruction). Some educators, however, have been reluctant to provide any distance instruction because they believe that federal disability law presents insurmountable barriers to remote education. This is simply not true. We remind schools they should not opt to close or decline to provide distance instruction, at the expense of students, to address matters pertaining to services for students with disabilities. Rather, school systems must make local decisions that take into consideration the health, safety, and well-being of all their students and staff.

 To be clear: ensuring compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA),† Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504), and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act should not prevent any school from offering educational programs through distance instruction.”

The 5-page fact sheet also includes a list provided by the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) of IDEA timelines that may be extended. While some timelines may be extended by virtue of the COVID-19 pandemic, for the most part, extensions are by agreement of the parties.

Gov. Whitmer Clarifies MDE Statement on Instructional Time

After MDE on Friday issued a memo regarding instructional time during school closures that caused a lot of confusion, Gov. Whitmer released a statement to offer some clarification:

“The memo does not mean that school work done during the mandatory school closure won’t ‘count’ toward grades, credits, or graduation. Each district should determine what services and supports they are able to provide during this unprecedented crisis. Many are focusing on meeting basic needs and are working around the clock to provide breakfast and lunch for hungry students. Other districts have the ability to provide more learning support as a result of one-to-one technology initiatives. I am in awe of the work that school employees are doing to support their kids and I applaud their efforts.

 “As you know, the situation has changed rapidly over the course of the past ten days. We do not know what the future will hold, but we are absolutely committed to ensuring the needs of our students, parents, and families are met as we navigate these uncharted waters. I will be working in the coming days to ensure our seniors graduate and that no child is held back as a result of our ability to provide face-to-face instruction during the COVID-19 school closure.”

Other

Know that members still have many questions about food services, etc. The big question is the forgiveness of days that districts will be closed. MASA, MASB, labor leaders, and lawmakers are working on a solution and we will share that information with you as soon as we have something definitive to share.

We continue to work closely with state agencies to track down information and answers. Please continue to pass along your questions to contacts at MASA and we will reach out to the appropriate officials and agencies to track down answers as soon as we can. Please know that while schools might be closed to children, MASA staff are working diligently to keep you informed.

 AASA, the national superintendent’s association, on Friday produced a weekly report, “The Legislative Corps.” Check out the newsletter for updates about what is happening at the federal level regarding COVID-19.

MASA COVID-19 Resource Center

As a reminder, please visit MASA’s COVID-19 Resource Center for the latest information and resources to help during this period of time.