Governor Whitmer Signs Executive Order Expanding Provisions for K-12 Learning and Early Childhood Programs for Remainder of School Year

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Governor Gretchen Whitmer has signed Executive Order 2020-65 to extend and clarify Executive Order 2020-35, which ordered all K-12 school buildings to close for instructional purposes to students for the remainder of the school year, and provided continuity of learning infrastructure by setting guidelines for remote learning. In addition to continuing the actions taken in the previous executive order, Executive Order 2020-65 also suspends in-person instruction of both the Great Start Readiness Program and early childhood programs for the reminder of the 2019-2020 school year. GSRP is Michigan’s state-funded preschool program.

“A few weeks ago I made the difficult choice to close our school facilities for the remainder of the school year. I understand the tremendous impact this has placed on families, teachers, staff and students. It was not a decision I took lightly,” said Governor Whitmer. “I am so thankful for the tireless work of our frontline school employees who are working every day to ensure the continued education of Michigan’s kids. Already, I have seen amazing stories of teachers doing their part and working hard to make sure their students have the resources they need. This order builds upon my previous order to ensure schools have the clear guidance they need to give Michigan students the best, most equitable education possible from the safety of their homes.”

Under the re-issued EO, school districts that run Great Start Readiness Programs (GSRP) must also detail a plan on how the GSRP teaching team will engage with enrolled children and families as well as provide children and their families plans for the transition from GSRP to kindergarten. This outreach must include a virtual conference with the family. Schools must begin implementation of GSRP plans by May 7, 2020.

Executive Order 2020-65 suspends certain requirements for teacher evaluations in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally the order clarifies that some teachers with individualized development plans will need to be provided an annual year-end performance evaluation, but that administrators must only use data available prior to the school closures, in recognition of some limitations posed by COVID-19. The order also temporarily suspends certain requirements that districts will not be able to fulfill due to the closure of school buildings for instructional purposes, like mandatory fire, lockdown, and tornado drills. It also waives compulsory attendance requirements and truancy enforcement measures for the remainder of 2019-2020 school year.

Like her previous order, all districts must ensure their plans are appropriate, equitable and accessible for students and families. Although each district’s plan will be different and represent what is best for their students, the Continued Learning Plan (CoL) outlined in the order requires schools to:

 *   Include a description of the methods used to provide alternative modes of instruction as well as a summary of materials, a description of methods to keep students at the center of education activities, a plan to deliver content in multiple ways to ensure access for all students, and a plan to manage and monitor learning.

 *   Include a budget outline estimating additional expenditures associated with the CoL Plan and sources of revenue to pay for those expenditures.

 *   Provide a description of methods the district will use to notify pupils and parents or guardians of the CoL Plan.

 *   Provide or arrange for continuation of food distribution to eligible pupils.

 *   Continue to pay school employees while redeploying staff to provide meaningful work in the context of the CoL Plan, subject to any applicable requirements of a collective bargaining agreement.

 *   Provide for evaluation of participation in the CoL Plan by pupils.

 *   Provide mental health supports to pupils affected by a state of emergency or state of disaster prompted by COVID-19.

 *   Include a plan for early childhood services, including Great Start Readiness Program, compliant with guidance issued by the Department.

Additionally, each district must have its plan approved by their regional intermediate school district before being implemented. Public school academies must have their plans approved by their authorizer. Districts can also partner with one another to create joint plans.

School districts will have the flexibility to adopt a balanced calendar for the 2019-2020 school year and/or to begin the 2020-2021 school year before Labor Day without having to seek additional approval. Teachers and school employees will be paid for the remainder of the school year. Student teachers will still be able to get a temporary certification and current teachers will still be able to get their certifications renewed, even if they can’t meet all the requirements due to COVID-19.

All Michigan high school seniors will be given the opportunity to graduate this year so that they may make a successful postsecondary transition. Additionally, all standardized tests previously scheduled for the remainder of the school year, including the M-STEP and the SAT, will be canceled. There will be a date in October for rising high school seniors to take the SAT and for other high school students to take the PSAT.