Gov. Whitmer encourages Michigan public schools to reopen for in-person learning by March 1

Public schools closed in fall due to surge in COVID-19 cases

Gov. Whitmer calls on K-12 schools to plan to reopen on March 1

LANSING, Mich. – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer “strongly encouraged” Michigan public schools to reopen for in-person learning by the beginning of March.

8 takeaways from Whitmer’s COVID briefing: In-person learning, vaccine distribution, restaurants

Public schools in Michigan were shut down during the fall due to a surge in COVID-19 cases. Their buildings have been closed for about two months -- since the state reported thousands of COVID-19 cases per day in November.

Click here to watch the full replay of Whitmer’s Jan. 8, 2021, COVID-19 briefing.

“The value of in-person learning for our kids is immeasurable, and we must do everything we can to help them get a great education safely,” Whitmer said. “Over the last 10 months, medical experts and epidemiologists have closely followed the data and have learned that schools can establish a low risk of transmission by ensuring that everyone wears a mask and adopting careful infection prevention protocols.

“I strongly encourage districts to provide as much face-to-face learning as possible, and my administration will work closely with them to get it done.”

READ: 8 Michigan businesses cited for COVID-19 safety violations, state says

In-person learning at high schools and colleges was specifically banned Nov. 18, when the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services issued a “pause” on certain segments of the economy.

Whitmer recommended schools resume in-person instruction by March 1 or earlier.

“MDHHS will continue to do what it takes to save lives and limit the spread of COVID-19,” Director Robert Gordon said. “At the same time, in-person instruction is critical for the current and the future well-being of children, especially young learners and students who are disadvantaged. We encourage schools to reopen as soon as they can do so with proven protections for staff and students.”

High schools were allowed to reopen their doors Dec. 21, but most had already started winter break. Whitmer said the announcement was made at that time to give schools a chance to prepare before bringing students back.

Colleges were asked to delay bringing students back to campus until at least Jan. 15 -- the current deadline for the MDHHS order.

As of Monday (Jan. 11), teachers will be among those eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine in Michigan. MDHHS announced the state would move to the next phase of vaccinations, but previous phases have not been completed, and there are some concerns about supply as residents 65 and older also become eligible.

State officials said wearing masks is especially important for controlling COVID-19 transmission, and masks should be worn inside schools by all staff and students, except during meals and in other limited circumstances. Face masks may be made of cloth or may be disposable surgical-style masks.

Other infection control measures in the new MDHHS guidance include:

  • When feasible, assigning children to cohort groups and limiting their interactions to their cohorts to reduce the number of contacts.
  • Keeping children 6 feet apart from one another to the extent feasible, making creative use of school spaces to facilitate distancing.
  • Providing adequate hand sanitizing supplies and reinforcing proper handwashing techniques.
  • Improving air ventilation.
  • Having staff and students conduct self-screenings for symptoms at home every day before going to school.
  • Ensuring school plans are in place in coordination with their local health department if there are any positive COVID-19 tests.
  • Having staff and students who either test positive or are close contacts of those who test positive follow the guidance issued by MDHHS as well as local health departments. Anyone who is considered a close contact of someone who tests positive but does not have symptoms should quarantine for 10 days under CDC guidance.

Additional recommendations can be found here.

About the Author:

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.