Michigan Senate approves Return to Learn plan

Published: Aug. 15, 2020 at 3:31 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - With so much mystery revolving around the coronavirus pandemic, many wondered how students would be learning in the upcoming 2020-2021 school year.

Last year in the middle of March, the Lansing School District and Michigan State University decided to shutdown in-person learning, and made the switch to online only classes. The change lasted longer than many anticipated, with all schools ending the 2019-2020 school year strictly online.

Now with less than a month until the new school year, many are wondering whether or not students will get to return to the classrooms or once again be stuck at home learning online.

Many schools around the Lansing area have been offering to parents different kinds of plans, some being online only, others offering hybrid plans that allow students and parents to choose if they feel safe learning at school or if they would rather learn at home through online learning.

Now parents can have some confidence that they will be able to send their kids to school again once the 2020 school year begins. The Michigan Senate approved the Return to learn plan that would help ensure Michigan students receive a safe education when school resumes in a few weeks.

Under the Return to Learn plan, school districts must develop health and safety guidelines for all in-person instruction. The guidelines must leverage local data and be developed in consultation with county health departments. They should help inform staff, parents and students, and members of the community as to how and why certain instruction models are selected.

“Nothing is more important than providing students a great education in a safe learning environment,” said Sen. Lana Theis, R-Brighton, chair of the Senate Education and Career Readiness Committee. “The Return to Learn plan will help students achieve by ensuring local school districts are empowered to make the best health and safety decisions for their communities.”

The plan gives districts flexibility on the total number of mandated instructional days and hours, as long as a full school year’s worth of instruction is provided. The legislation also requires regular two-way interaction between students and teachers, regardless of how they are offering classes. This is intended to ensure students enrolled in distance learning options receive the benefit of personal attention.

Under the plan, funding would be determined using a blend of the 2019-2020 school year pupil count and the 2020-2021 school year pupil count. The blended average will help ensure stability in funding levels.

The plan also requires benchmark testing to be conducted in the classroom, online or at home. Test results will be shared with parents, so they understand children’s learning needs, and they will be used by each school district to establish academic goals.

“Entrusting local education leaders with the flexibility to make more and better decisions will increase opportunities for educational enrichment and help improve student achievement,” Theis said. “The Return to Learn plan will help them accomplish that.” 

The legislation heads to the House of Representatives, where it is expected to receive final approval and be sent to the governor for her signature.

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