Skubick: Michigan schools wrestle with return of online learning


LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – There are 1.2 million school children in Michigan, and today 95,000 are not back in the classroom and most are from large urban areas, including Lansing.  

Lansing is not alone in going virtual this first day of classes.

Detroit, Flint, Ann Arbor, Romulus, Southfield, Oak Park and Pontiac also went virtual.

“The vast majority are back in person as of today. We did see an announcement that the largest of our districts, with a greater population density, are saying they will be virtual for the foreseeable future, and others are taking a three day pause or a week pause,” said Don Wotruba, CEO of the Michigan Schoolboard Association.

School administrators are concerned about what illnesses children will bring back to school after the holiday break, and the highly contentious and virulent omicron variant is causing administrative headaches as well.

“With that, we can expect more kids and staff members to get it and they have to go into quarantine and administrators are concerned. Are they going to have enough kids or staff to drive buses and teach class?” said Wotruba.

In addition to the healthcare concerns, administrators are facing a loss of state aid.

Under current state law, districts will be docked if 75% of the students are not in their seats each day, but the GOP legislature, which imposed the requirement, will be asked to erase that potential loss.

“Why would you not allow a kid that is under quarantine, that’s receiving an education, to be counted the same as if they were sitting in the classroom,” said Wotruba. “I think the classroom remain safe.”

The perplexing question: will more schools be forced to join Lansing the others in shutting down those classrooms?

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