LANSING, Mich. – As the suggested March 1 deadline approaches, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said the state is “strongly encouraging” school districts to provide as much in-person learning as possible.
In January, Whitmer set a goal for all Michigan school districts to offer an in-person learning option for students by the start of March.
On Tuesday, just 20 days before that date, Whitmer reiterated the importance of children returning to the classroom.
“The value of in-person learning, however, for our kids, is immeasurable, and we’ve got to do everything we can to get them back safety in the classroom so they get the education they need,” Whitmer said.
Last week, Michigan officials announced youth contact sports would be allowed to resume, which eliminated one of the contradicting factors in the state’s backing of children returning to school.
Teachers have been eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine for more than a month now, as the state hopes to make a return to in-person learning safer.
“We are strongly encouraging districts provide as much face-to-face learning as possible, because it is just crucial for the success of our kids,” Whitmer said. “Especially our youngest kids. Especially kids who are from disadvantaged circumstances, kids with special needs or English language learners, in particular.”
She said many students and families have struggled with remote learning and need, at minimum, a hybrid schedule that includes some face-to-face interaction.
“This can be done safely with the safety protocols and a strategy to keep our students and our teachers and our support staff safe,” Whitmer said.
“We also know that in-person learning can be done safely, and in many school districts across the state, this is already happening,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the chief medical executive of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
Epidemiologists across the country have found that schools can reopen with a low risk of COVID-19 transmission through mask wearing and other infection prevention protocols, Khaldun said.
On Tuesday, Michigan announced 563 daily COVID-19 cases. That’s the lowest total since Sept. 22 and the first time the state has announced fewer than 1,000 cases since Oct. 6.
Since the start of the pandemic, the state has confirmed 569,980 COVID-19 cases and 14,965 virus-related deaths.