Listen now to teletownhall recording with Whitmer, Rice

More on Stay Home, Stay Safe order; NEA story on Alpena “Meals on Wheels”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and State Supt. Michael Rice joined MEA President Paula Herbart and other state education leaders in a teletownhall Monday to address questions surrounding statewide school closures. If you missed the call, you can listen to a recording now.

Whitmer appeared on the teletown hall just minutes after completing a live televised press conference announcing her “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order for all Michiganders to remain in their homes except for essential personnel or to conduct essential business. (See below.)

On the statewide call to members of MEA, AFT Michigan and AFSCME, Whitmer acknowledged the many sacrifices being made and urged everyone to do their part to protect the health and safety of the public and the state’s health care workers.

“There’s no community that has been greater in its support or more encouraging or stepped up to meet more needs than the education community,” Whitmer said, “and that’s why I wanted to be here to thank you, to share with you the thought process on why these actions are so important now, and just to tell you how much I appreciate you.”

Rice also addressed attendees directly who are “rightly concerned about your pay or the pay of family, friends or colleagues.”

“You’re concerned about what’s going to happen with the summer. You’re concerned about whether the state of emergency days will count as instructional days. I don’t get to make any of these decisions in my current role, but let me tell you who does, and by extension what I am advocating for with your union leaders and partners,” said Rice, pointing attendees to the Legislature for needed action.

Just as last year’s statewide school closures in response to the polar vortex were forgiven, instructional days lost for an unprecedented national public health emergency should also be forgiven, Rice said.

“I believe that everyone who works for a school district and who had anticipated working for a school district through the end of the school year should be paid as such, whether salaried or hourly, whether a contracted service provider, instructional or non-instructional, whether a full-time employee or a substitute employee.”

Only the state Legislature can make those kinds of global decisions, and education leaders across the spectrum – including union leaders – are working together to advocate for it, he said.

Even as schools across Michigan closed one week ago, many school employees have stepped up to do the “critically important work” of distributing food and delivering learning opportunities to children, MEA’s Herbart noted on the call.

An effort in Alpena, dubbed “the largest meals on wheels,” was featured in this NEA story about educators across the country helping to get food and supplies distributed in their communities. Alpena bus drivers, paraeducators, food service workers, teachers and administrators are pitching in to make sure students in the 604-square-mile district don’t go hungry during this crisis.

“Schools around the country may be closed, but there are nearly 30 million students who rely on schools for breakfast and lunch,” Herbart said. “Without those meals many of them wouldn’t eat, so at schools all over the state, hundreds of thousands of families are able to come by car, by foot or by bike; keep a safe distance from each other; and collect bags of breakfast and lunch.”

If you missed the teletown hall, you can listen to a recording.

Then contact your representative and senator to call for action on the issues raised and encourage parents and community members to do the same.

More on Stay Home, Stay Safe order

Gov. Whitmer’s Stay Home, Stay Safe executive order requires requires all non-essential businesses to close and workers to stay home to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The order takes effect at 12:01 am March 24 and is in effect through April 13.

In her press conference on the order, she made clear that all schools will remain closed through April 13, as well. School employees who are needed to perform essential functions at school buildings, despite being closed to students, must still report to work if asked by their employer. Questions about this should be directed to your local association leadership or your local MEA UniServ staff.

Under the order:


  • Go to the grocery store or pick up take-out food (delivery services should be used to the extent possible).
  • Go to the pharmacy to pick up a needed prescription.
  • Engage in outdoor activities like walking, hiking, running, biking.
  • Go to the hospital or secure any care necessary to address a medical emergency or to preserve your health or the health of a loved one.
  • Fill your car with gas.
  • Return to Michigan to a home or place of residence from outside the State.
  • Leave the State for a home or residence elsewhere.
  • Walk your pets and take them to the veterinarian for needed medical care.


  • Leave the home to work unless your employer designates you as a critical infrastructure worker.
  • Participate in any public gatherings.
  • Visit someone in the hospital, nursing home, or other residential care facilities (with limited exceptions).
  • Go to the mall or to restaurants.

For more information on this order, please visit

coronavirus Newsroom