LANSING, Mich. — Traditionally Michigan schools have had to offer at least 180 days and 1098 hours of in-school instruction. Parents could choose virtual programs, but schools had to offer full-time in-person learning to get full funding.
As the pandemic started the legislature gave schools quote “full flexibility.” Now as we start a new school year the old rules are back.
Some school leaders are concerned about the lack of flexibility. Many children still cannot be vaccinated and are about to head indoors to school.
Schools are going to be more crowded, and some are not requiring masks. Meanwhile, the Delta variant is sickening more children, so much so that some hospitals around the country have run out of pediatric ICU beds.
“When I think about a traditional in-person classroom setting, to me that seems like an extraordinary disaster waiting to happen,” said Robert Livernois, Superintendent Warren Consolidated Schools.
Livernois says last year the district offered hybrid learning for social distancing. This year hybrid schedules to allow for social distancing aren’t an option, switching in-person to virtual is also not an option, and if someone gets sick close contacts will have to quarantine. He is worried about the learning loss of students who have to quarantine and student health.
That is why Sunday the district announced it would require masks.
“One of my core values is to protect them. It feels like the right thing to do,” said Superintendent Livernois.
“The risk of dying is so small as compared to the detrimental impact that wearing a mask every day has for students,” said State Representative Pamela Hornberger (R- Education Committee Chair).
State Representative Pamela Hornberger, a Republican from Chesterfield Township and former teacher, says the legislature is sending a message by requiring full-time in-person learning programs if schools want full funding. It is time to return to traditional standards.
“We need kids back in school. We need to get as back to as normal an education system as we can,” said Representative Hornberger.
State Representative Matt Koleszar, a Democrat representing Northville, Plymouth, and parts of Canton, says schools should be able to plan to go virtual if cases get high.
“I 100% think schools should have that flexibility. I believe we in the legislature need to give our schools local control here,” he said.
Education advocates say now is the time to prepare plans for if cases are high and flexibility would help.
“If a local health department were to say that school needs to shut down, what is a school supposed to do? It would be nice to have those answers ahead of time,” said Bob McCann of the K-12 Alliance of Michigan.
“It is not something we haven’t dealt with before or can’t deal with in the future,” said Rep. Hornberger.