Whitmer releases guide to Michigan school reopenings and proposes police reforms

Tuesday, June 30, 2020 - 5:14pm

Governor Gretchen Whitmer released a guide for K-12 schools to open in the Fall Tuesday afternoon.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer released a guide for K-12 schools to open in the Fall Tuesday afternoon. Buy this photo
Courtesy of Michigan Executive Office

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer released the MI Safe Schools Return to School Roadmap in a briefing on Tuesday afternoon. This “Roadmap” is a 63-page document to help guide Michigan school districts on return to in-person instruction in the fall. 

This briefing comes after Whitmer announced on June 17 that Michigan schools can return to in-person instruction with strict safety measures in place as part of phase four of the MI Safe Start Plan.

“Our students, parents, and educators have made incredible sacrifices during our battle with COVID-19,” Whitmer said in the press release. “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.” 

The guide includes safety protocols that fall under each phase of the MI Safe Start plan. It includes guidelines on PPE use, spacing in classrooms, screening for symptoms, athletics and more. It also acknowledges COVID-19’s impact on students’ and educators’ mental health and offers advice on how schools can address this issue. 

American Federation of Teachers Michigan is a union of educators in both K-12 and intermediate schools across the state. David Hecker, president of AFT Michigan, spoke at the briefing in support of the guide.

“The governor’s MI Safe Schools Roadmap is a thoughtful, comprehensive plan that puts the health and safety of our students and educators first, balancing this priority with the importance of in-school education,” Hecker said. “Our teachers and support staff are eager and ready to implement safety measures in our schools to ensure everyone who steps foot in them is protected from the spread of COVID-19.” 

Whitmer also signed an executive order that provides a structure for K-12 Michigan schools as they reopen in the fall. The order requires schools to adopt a COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan that outlines how they will protect students and educators in various phases of the Safe Start Plan. 

“There’s no one-size-fits-all solution: what works in Lansing may not work in Sault Sainte Marie,” the order said. “Districts will retain flexibility to tailor their instruction to their particular needs and to the disease conditions present in their regions.”

The COVID-19 Return to Learn Advisory Council — chaired by Tonya Allen, president and CEO of The Skillman Foundation — was announced by Whitmer on June 3 and works closely with the governor and the COVID-19 Task Force on Education to provide input on a safe transition back to school.

“All of us on the Return to Learn Advisory Council share a commitment to marrying science and evidence, and practicality and local needs to ensure the health and safety of our students and educators,” Allen said in the press release. “We will remain vigilant and flexible, helping ensure safety protocols are in place in every Michigan school.” 

On June 29, the day before the school reopening briefing, Whitmer proposed additional police reform policies via a four-pronged plan that makes reforms in policy, personnel, partnership/community engagement, and prevention and accountability.

“This proposal will help us ensure that law enforcement officials treat all Michiganders with humanity and respect, and will help us keep our communities safe,” Whitmer said. “I will continue working with leaders in law enforcement to make public safety more just and equitable in Michigan.”

The proposal included measures that ban chokeholds, classify racially-motivated 911 calls as hate crimes, invest in programs around the state that promote building relationships between local police and community leaders and require retention of disciplinary records that result from violations of law or improper use of force.

This comes in a series of police reforms called for by Whitmer, who earlier this month said that police officers should be required to intervene when they see a fellow officer using excessive force.

“All Michiganders, no matter their community or the color of their skin, deserve equal treatment under the law,” Whitmer said. 

Daily Staff Reporter Iulia Dobrin can be reached at idobrin@umich.edu.