Parents across the state are doing their best to keep their kids safe in the age of COVID-19. But, one thing weighed on most parents’ minds: What is back-to-school going to look like this year?
On June 30, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer unveiled her “Return-to-School Roadmap,” which lays out a plan for schools to follow this fall.
The 63-page report was put together by the Return-to-School Advisory council made up of educators, administrators, elected officials, parents, students and public health experts from across the state.
The safety protocols outlined by the committee are based on the most up-to-date scientific data on COVID-19 currently available. Protocols will vary based on the current status of coronavirus in any given area at back-to-school time.
Some safety protocols in the report are required by K-12 schools while others are “strongly recommended” or “recommended.”
The Return-to-School Roadmap offers the following four scenarios for back-to-school in 2020:
- Schools open for in-person instruction with minimal required safety protocols.
- Schools open for in-person instruction with moderate required safety protocols
- Schools open for in-person instruction with more stringent required safety protocols
- Schools do not open for in-person instruction and remote instruction is provided.
The scenario that occurs is based on where each area is in Gov. Whitmer’s MI Safe Start six-phase reopening plan.
Schools in areas that are on stage six of the plan may return to in-person instruction with minimal instruction whereas schools in areas that are in phases 1-3 may not open for in-person instruction at all.
As with the reopening scenario, the number of safety protocols put in place in schools will depend on where an area falls on her reopening plan.
Schools in areas in phases 1-3 will require the following:
- Schools will remain closed for in-person instruction
- Schools will enact food distribution programs
- Schools will suspend all inter- and after-school activities
- Schools should suspend all bussing information
These schools may be used as licensed child care facilities and school employees may be present for the purpose of conducting basic operations like instruction. Cleaning practices will be adjusted to maintain the school building.
Other strongly recommended protocols include mental health screenings, the implementation of communication guidelines, a comprehensive crisis management plan and more.
The plan also offers guidelines for virtual instruction and support services for those in this scenario.
Schools in areas that fall in phase four of the MI Safe Start Plan, when overall cases of COVID-19 remain high but new cases or death have fallen, may reopen with stringent safety protocols. Those protocols include the following:
- Face coverings must be worn by staff and students except when eating. (Teachers in PreK-5 or who are in special education classes are asked to consider clear masks.)
- Schools should supply soap, hand sanitizer, paper towels, tissues and other items that support good hygiene practices, along with signs that reinforce proper handwashing techniques.
- Teachers should teach and reinforce proper handwashing techniques.
It is also strongly recommended that staff and students be taught how to properly cough or sneeze into elbows or a tissue, and then wash their hands.
It is also strongly recommended that teachers take handwashing breaks every 2-3 hours, limit the sharing of personal items, set up classrooms so that social distancing can be followed, open classroom windows, when possible and more.
Schools in areas that are in phase five of the MI Safe Start Plan may reopen with more moderate safety protocols in place. It is strongly recommended that these schools enforce staff and students to wear masks throughout the days except when eating.
Like schools in phase four, these schools should also encourage good hygiene practices and supply items needed to do so and set up classrooms to ensure proper social distancing.
Schools in areas in phase six of the reopening plan do not have to wear face coverings or abide by social distancing. Good hygiene and cleaning practices are still recommended.
In the event of a diagnosed case of COVID-19 in staff or students, schools in phase six must immediately close and disinfect.
You can read the full Return-to-School Roadmap at Michigan.gov. You can also find a breakdown of what local schools in metro Detroit and Ann Arbor are doing here.