Whitmer signs bipartisan Return to Learn bills outlining “more flexible” COVID-19 learning plan

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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks at a Michigan coronavirus news conference on Aug. 14, 2020. (Courtesy: Michigan Executive Office of the Governor)

Lansing, Mich. (WLNS) — Governor Whitmer signed the bipartisan “Return to Learn” bills today, which she and legislative leaders agreed upon on Friday of last week. 

The bill package outlines new, more flexible instructional requirements for the 2020-2021 school year. It also provides significant financial stability to districts by primarily using last year’s pupil count to determine this year’s funding levels.   

“Over the past week, we have taken crucial steps to help Michigan schools and families navigate the new school year. Alongside this bipartisan agreement, I announced nearly $65 million in federal funding to help give students, parents, educators, and support staff the resources they need to provide the best and most safe education possible,” said Governor Whitmer.  

Under the legislation, schools are provided flexibility around number of school days, instructional hours, student count and attendance. Additionally, the legislation outlines the new COVID-19 learning plan which is intended to provide school districts with the maximum flexibility to adapt their programs to properly and safely respond to the pandemic. Districts must submit their plans, which should include educational goals and a description of how instruction will be delivered.  

Under each plan, schools are required to describe how instruction will be delivered, giving school districts the ability to provide instruction in-person at school or a different location, online, digitally, or any other remote means of learning. Districts are also required to describe how instruction for core academic areas provided under the learning plan will expose each student to standards comparable to in-person instruction and a description of how student progress will be graded or reported. 

Furthermore, districts must describe how they will ensure students with disabilities will be provided with equitable access to instruction accommodation as well as describe how students will be provided with equitable access to technology and internet if instruction is virtual.  

The legislation ensures that students are engaged in learning by requiring consistent two-way interactions between students and teachers. As districts develop their plans they are required to work with their local health departments and employees to develop district wide guidelines and key metrics from local data. COVID-19 learning plans must be submitted to its ISD or authorizing body by October 1, 2020.  

House Bills 5911, 5912, and 5913 were tie-barred and sponsored by Representative Gregory Markkanen, Representative Andrea Schroeder, and Representative Annette Glenn.  

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