Local districts' plans starting to take shape after state closed schools

A classroom at Cadillac Junior High School remained empty last Thursday after the school was closed last month due to COVID-19. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order on April 2 suspending face-to-face learning at K-12 schools for the remainder of the current academic school year., but as of Monday local districts were still figuring out what that would mean moving forward.

CADILLAC — After last week's announcement that schools would be closed for the remainder of the school year, plans were starting to take shape Monday.

Wexford-Missaukee Intermediate School District Superintendent Dave Cox met with some of his staff Monday and is scheduled to meet virtually with member district superintendents on Tuesday. He said when they meet they will go over the 15 questions that must be answered as part of the Continuous Learning Plan.

He said the member districts have to complete the questions but the ISD does as well. For the most part, he said, the questions are simple to answer, but some of the more challenging questions relate more to the ISD. Those questions revolve around child care centers and continuing mental health services.

Questions about how the districts will provide instruction also will need to be answered and if the work will be graded, credit/no credit or supplemental. Cox, however, said he believes the work will not be graded.

Regardless, by Tuesday afternoon Cox said he believes things will be more figured out. He also said various associations and the Michigan Department of Education have given sample language to assist districts in filling out the questions associated with Continuous Learning Plan.

Last week, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said face-to-face instruction will not resume this spring. Neither will extracurricular activities including sports.

Districts have flexibility in how they create distance learning programs. Options include phone lessons, online classes, and mailing materials to homes. Schools relying on virtual learning should ensure that every student has access to a device that can connect to the internet.

Under Whitmer's order, schools must establish distance learning programs no later than April 28. Intermediate school districts and charter school authorizers must be ready to review and approve or reject plans starting Wednesday, April 15.

Traditional districts and charter schools whose “continuity of learning‘ plans are approved will get their full state funding. They also were given more flexibility to start the 2020-21 school year early, including by switching to a year-round balanced calendar.

About 12% of Michigan children, or 266,000, live in homes without internet access, according to the Michigan League for Public Policy’s Kids Count project. Access is lowest in rural areas. Locally, Cadillac Area Public Schools compiled data showing 20% lacked internet access while 40% were without a device. Pine River Area Schools showed 45% of its students have internet connectivity.

In those districts as well as others within the Wexford-Missaukee ISD, the final plans will likely include offering leaning plans for families with access to internet and technology, families with limited access and families with no access.