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Return to School Roadmap Released, Budget Deal Announced

Jennifer Smith

By Jennifer Smith, MASB Director of Government Relations

DashBoard, July 8, 2020

On June 30, 2020, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer released the MI Safe Schools: Michigan’s 2020-2021 Return to School Roadmap. This document is the result of the work by the Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force on Education and the Return to School Advisory Council. It contains guidance for districts to create plans to return to in-person instruction this fall. The Governor also issued Executive Order 2020-142, which speaks to how to create a “Preparedness Plan” and the suggested timeline.

The Return to School Roadmap includes guidelines and recommendations on safety protocols at each phase. The safety protocols cover the use of PPE, good hygiene, cleaning and disinfecting, spacing in classrooms, symptom screening, athletics, transportation and more. The Roadmap also recognizes the mental health impact living in a pandemic has had on students and staff and offers guidance on how to address it.

Under EO 2020-142, a school district is required to adopt a COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan that is informed by the Roadmap recommendations. It must describe the policies and procedures that will be followed to keep students and staff safe in the various phases of the MI Safe Start Plan.

The Plan also must include specific guidelines for facial coverings at school as well as while traveling to and from the buildings depending on the phase of reopening that your community is in. For Phase 4 facial coverings must be worn:

  • by all staff, except during meals,
  • by all students, staff and bus drivers while on school transportation,
  • by all students in hallways and common areas of a building, except during meals,
  • by students in grades 6-12 in all classrooms.

In Phase 5, these steps will be strongly recommended, but can be adjusted by each district. However, if they are adjusted, the Plan must document that decision.

Athletics have already started to be allowed with certain restrictions and those continue as long as the community is in Phase 4. The Michigan High School Athletic Association and the National Federation of State High School Associations are continuing to develop and modify guidance as to how sports can be played safely. The Governor also stated that she has asked MHSAA to consider moving fall sports where social distancing cannot be followed to the spring and running more individualized sports in the fall.

The Governor’s office has also put out a frequently asked questions document to go with the Roadmap. We will be holding a Views From the Capitol webinar today at 3:30 p.m. where Gov. Whitmer, her staff and two school board members who served on the Advisory Council will join us to discuss the Roadmap. Registration is still open; if you miss it, it will be available on our website later this week.

Also, last week, the Governor, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) and House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) announced a budget agreement that includes reductions in current-year funding, but also includes CARES Act funding for schools, universities, community colleges and local governments to address the additional costs created by COVID-19. To balance the remaining parts of the General Fund budget, the state is withdrawing $350 million from the Budget Stabilization Fund.

Under the agreement, $256 million will be cut from the foundation allowance and $60 million cut from categoricals. The details on which categoricals are still being worked out. The foundation allowance cut will equal approximately $171 per pupil. The state will then allocate $512 million in CARES Act funding for school districts for COVID-19 expenses and expected costs around returning to school this fall.

There is also a $500 per-person hazard pay allocation for each teacher across the state totaling $53 million, which would also be paid for with CARES Act funding.

This current-year budget deal is expected to pass the Legislature quickly when they return on July 21, 2020.

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