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Whitmer creates group tasked with helping schools safely reopen this fall

It is the job of the new Advisory Council to provide recommendations on how to safely and equitably return to school.

LANSING, Mich. — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the creation of the COVID-19 Return to Schools Advisory Council Friday. The council was created via Executive Order 2020-88.

Students, parents, frontline educators, administration and public health officials will make up the council, with the goal to determine how schools may safely reopen in the fall.

“It’s critical we bring together experts in health care and education, as well as students, educators, and families to think about how and if it’s possible to safely return to in-person learning in the fall and how to ensure the more than 1.5 million K-12 students across Michigan get the education they need and deserve,” Whitmer said. “This panel will use a data-informed and science-based approach with input from epidemiologists to determine if, when, and how students can return to school this fall and what that will look like.”

On April 2, Whitmer made the decision to keep schools closed for the remainder of the 2019-20 academic year as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. On March 3, she announced the creation of the COVID-19 Task Force on Education. This task force is responsible for developing the COVID-19 response for Michigan’s K-12 public schools.

It is the job of the new Advisory Council to inform the task force of problems that arise or provide recommendations on how to safely and equitably return to school in the fall.

“The formation of an advisory group to identify the critical issues that must be addressed and provide valuable input to inform the process of returning to school is reasonable and necessary to ensure a smooth and safe transition back to school,” Executive Order 2020-88 reads.

According to the order, the Advisory Council will be responsible for the following:

  1. “Develop and submit recommendations to the COVID-19 Task Force on Education regarding the safe, equitable, and efficient K-12 return to school in the Fall.”
  2. “Assemble critical voices from the education and public health communities to assist in identifying key issues schools must consider before opening in the Fall.”
  3. “Recommend actions to remove statutory and administrative barriers to delivering education before Phase 6 of the MI Safe Start Plan.”
  4. “Recommend actions to develop and improve systems for academic support for students who experienced learning loss during the Spring/Summer 2020.”
  5. “Provide other information or advice or take other actions as requested by the governor and the COVID-19 Task Force on Education.”

The Advisory Council will consist of up to 25 members, all of whom will be appointed by Whitmer.

“I want to thank all of the parents who have been burning the candle at both ends these last few months trying to help their kids stay on track with their schoolwork while juggling their other responsibilities during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. I know it hasn’t been easy,” Whitmer said. “My hope is that by organizing a formal process informed by public health experts, we can give school districts much-needed direction heading into the 2020-2021 school year.”

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