Regarding Gov. Whitmer’s announcement of new steps to contain COVID-19

A message from the MEA President about efforts to keep students and school employees safe

MEA members,

This evening, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced new restrictions across Michigan to fight the growing COVID-19 outbreak. While difficult, these steps are necessary to stop the spread of this virus and save lives.

Relative to schools, the governor announced that starting Wednesday in-person instruction will be suspended for three weeks at high schools, community colleges and universities, which have been experiencing greater transmission rates. Sports and extracurricular activities will be suspended for all schools, while buildings will be allowed to remain open for services to meet basic student needs (such as food service, internet access for virtual learning needs, school-based health care, childcare, and in-person instruction for special education and ELL students). In-person instruction with appropriate safety measures will be allowed to continue at PK-8 grades, due to lower transmission rates in those buildings.

We appreciate the governor taking these important steps in our communities, especially recognizing that proper precautions including mask wearing, social distancing and limiting gatherings will make a huge difference in terms of health and safety within the four walls of our schools. However, we do not believe that suspending in-person learning only for older students goes far enough. With the number of new cases setting records daily, we believe it’s in the best interest of all students and school employees for in-person learning to be temporarily suspended for all grades.

Later this week, we will be releasing a new round of MEA member polling data about the intersection of COVID-19 and education. Those numbers show roughly 4 out of 5 educators – across grade levels and classifications – are concerned about the safety of in-person instruction. As Michigan works to get the latest wave of coronavirus under control, we need to go further to protect students and school employees. In particular, as many districts are currently considering decisions to increase the amount of in-person learning, we will advocate to delay those transitions and, for those already conducting in-person learning at lower grade levels, redouble efforts to ensure everyone’s safety – including alerting MIOSHA and public health authorities of issues as they are identified. We also call on districts to immediately cease requiring educators to show up in-person in schools to teach virtual classes, in light of the clearly stated goal of conducting work remotely if feasible.

These are frightening and stressful times for everyone in public education – from employees to parents to students. MEA is committed to doing everything in our power to help, particularly continuing to advocate with the governor, the legislature and individual school districts so the voices of educators are heeded in decision making and that health and safety be priority number one in our schools.

In solidarity,

Paula Herbart
MEA President

coronavirus Newsroom

4 thoughts on “Regarding Gov. Whitmer’s announcement of new steps to contain COVID-19

  1. It might be interesting to note that while numbers may appear lower in k-8 students it should be taken into consideration that parents simply are choosing not to test their elementary aged children. I am a second grade teacher who recently experienced 10 out of 28 students staying home while we were in F2F instruction. In some cases the parents were COVID positive and therefore the children were quarantined. In other situations they “did not feel well”. For safety’s sake they remained home. But in all 10 cases the parents refused to get their child tested. In any sense, the best place for those children, the other children in the classroom and the teacher, bus driver and support staff was at home online learning.

  2. I completely agree. I teach 6-8 in a rural district in the Upper Peninsula and our community is currently under seige. I come in contact with over 100 students per day and most of our district’s cases and spread has occurred through elementary/middle bussing. Please advocate HARD to shut down all K-12 schools for three weeks so we can help out our friends and family in the health care industry and teach our kids safely by doing so remotely. We’ve been preparing for this for months. Now is the time to help our community and put our plans in actions.
    Thank You.

  3. Is this being submitted to ALL Michigan Public Schools as some are still requiring educators and other staff to show up in-person at the building for virtual learning?

  4. As a parent, I would like to see the MEA put students first. Leave it up to the local health departments to determine if a district should close in person learning. The MEA in Lansing should not decide what is safe for the children hours away in another town. The governor has forced closures and our children are the ones who suffer from not being in school. Teachers need to teach and students need to learn. For most children (all ages), in person is the best place to do that. Let’s find ways to get it done and make it happen for these kids. For some kids, school is the safest place for them to be- with people who are meeting their basic needs for that day (food, warmth, attention, social interaction, structure). Let’s stop spending so much time fighting to stay home and find ways to keep schools open. The health department has stated so many times (local and federal) that school being open is best for students and best for learning! Let’s try focusing on that!

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