Any time students spend learning during the mandated school closure will not count toward their required hours, according to a Friday memo from the Michigan Department of Education.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered for the closure of schools starting March 16 and continuing through April 5. In the meantime, some schools have attempted to switch to virtual learning, but the state has now clarified to superintendents that there is no way to continue education during this time.
"There is no mechanism to earn instructional time during a period of
mandated school closure," the MDE memo reads. "However, schools can and are encouraged to offer supplemental learning opportunities to students using distance learning methods as they see fit."
"I was dismayed to see that frankly," said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer about MDE's memo. "We are going to work to make sure kids are getting the instruction or equivalent of instruction as needed so that they can finish this year having got the education they were supposed to get."
In a press release shortly following the governor's remarks, State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice said under state law schools must have 75 percent student attendance each day in order for a district to receive full funding for that day. The system is not set up to track and verify attendance in a distance learning situation such as this, according to the department.
“State law limits us in this situation – not for an individual child in an individual cyber school or an individual virtual course offering, but for children across the state, many of whom have no computers at home, no connectivity, and no adults to monitor their learning and/or technology,” said Dr. Rice.
Rice said the legislature will have to relax regulations to allow students and teachers to meet legal requirements.
Whitmer issued a statement late Friday that read in part:
"The memo does not mean that school work done during the mandatory school closure won’t 'count' toward grades, credits, or graduation. Each district should determine what services and supports they are able to provide during this unprecedented crisis. Many are focusing on meeting basic needs and are working around the clock to provide breakfast and lunch for hungry students. Other districts have the ability to provide more learning support as a result of one-to-one technology initiatives. I am in awe of the work that school employees are doing to support their kids and I applaud their efforts."
Grand Rapids Public Schools says it's encouraging the continued learning of students, however, teachers have been instructed not to give assignments or any other required course work.
"We know that our school leaders, teachers, and support staff want to ensure teaching and learning continues to the extent possible; however, it is imperative that we provide equitable, quality learning for ALL students that is in full compliance with the law and our contractual obligations," the district wrote in a letter to parents Friday.
GRPS is providing optional online academic enrichment on its website. Math and reading materials are also being distributed for K-8th graders at the grab and go meal sites at Ottawa Hills and Sibley Elementary daily between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Starting Monday, the district will also have high school resources at those sites. The district also said it has a team working to develop online curriculum, if that becomes necessary.
The district says it has not heard anything from the MDE regarding assessments. On Tuesday, State Board of Education President Dr. Casandra Ulbrich and Dr. Rice wrote a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos urging her to grant a nationwide waiver of statewide student assessments. A waiver is typically not granted unless the closure dates fall during the assessment dates.
"Assuming that our school closure ends April 5, for these districts, the first day back at school would be April 13, and students would begin to test April 14," the letter reads.
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