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Legislators, governor reach bipartisan agreement on Return to Learn plan

(WILX)
Published: Aug. 14, 2020 at 9:02 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the State legislature have reached a bipartisan agreement to get K-12 students safely back to school this fall, according to a news release from State Rep. Pamela Hornberger, chair of the House Education Committee.

The plan, introduced by Hornberger in June, allows school districts to determine the best course of action for their students, be it online, in person, or hybrid instruction, based on consultations with local health departments, the release said.

“Our local health departments are equipped with experts who know what’s best for the kids in each unique community across Michigan,” Hornberger said. “As a mother and a former teacher, I want what’s best for our students. This plan accomplishes my two priorities: keeping kids safe and continuing to advance their education no matter the mode of instruction. I’m pleased we were able to come to this solution with the governor.”

Hornberger also said providing parents with the opportunity to voice their concerns is crucial in keeping the school district and community informed of needed adaptations, as well as being able to hold locally elected officials accountable.

Under the plan, school boards will be required to reexamine and re-certify how they are delivering instruction to students at their monthly board meetings for the duration of the 2020-21 school year. 

Additionally, local benchmark assessments will provide detailed information to parents and teachers about where a student needs additional help to ensure they stay on track.

Hornberger noted that younger students tend to learn better in classroom settings. 

“If districts determine that it is safe to offer in-person learning, districts are encouraged, but not required, to prioritize in-person instruction to K-5 pupils when possible,” Hornberger said. 

The coming school year will also pose significant additional costs to school districts as they work to impose new safety standards and innovative teaching methods, so the Legislature has approved a total of $583 million in federal Coronavirus Relief Funds to be dedicated to Michigan schools, including:

  • $350 per student across the board, ensuring schools have the resources they need to educate children.
  • More than $50 million in hazard pay for educators who have been flexible and innovative in the face of unprecedented change. 
  • $18 million for safety measures and local benchmark assessments to ensure kids stay on track with learning. 

The House plans to vote on Monday to advance the plan.

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