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Coronavirus extends Michigan school closures until at least April 14

March 30: Whitmer to end Michigan school year; seniors graduate, others move up

Already in the midst of a three-week closure to try to stem the spread of coronavirus, Michigan’s K-12 schools will be closed for at least an additional eight days.

The first day schools can return to class is Tuesday, April 14, after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday ordered Michigan residents to stay in their homes through midnight, April 13.

Schools had previously been ordered closed by Whitmer for three weeks, with classes possibly reopening April 6.

There’s no guarantee schools will reopen April 13, either. Monday’s order states that the governor will “evaluate the continuing need of this order prior to its expiration.”

As of Monday afternoon, there were 1,328 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state, and 15 deaths. State officials said they expect those numbers to grow significantly in the coming weeks.

School closings are viewed as one way to slow the spread of the potentially deadly virus. While young people tend to not become as seriously ill with coronavirus, they can pass it to older relatives.

Nikolai Vitti, superintendent of the state’s largest school district, Detroit Public Schools Community District, on Monday became the highest-profile school leader to call for schools to close for the remainder of the school year, and that seniors be allowed to graduate based on credits earned through the fall semester.

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Detroit has been hit harder than any other community in Michigan, with 31 percent of the confirmed coronavirus cases in a city with 7 percent of the state’s population.

“If we project our future based on trends in other countries that have been battling COVID-19 for a longer period of time, then we must come to realize that we will be fortunate if degrees of societal normalcy return by June,” Vitti wrote in an open letter to Michigan education leaders.

There are numerous questions still unresolved arising from the month-long closure. Schools have completed about 70 percent of their 180-day state-mandated calendar. It’s unclear whether the missed days will be forgiven, or whether schools will have to make up those days of instruction once schools reopen, moving the end of the school year into July.

Dave Campbell, superintendent of Kalamazoo Intermediate School District, said he believes districts should make up the days missed because of the coronavirus shutdown. While children of affluent families will likely do fine during the break, children from families where parents do not have the time or resources for education enrichment will fall behind.

“A 2 ½-month break (typical for summer break) is crazy – six months (the time from March’s school closure until September) is beyond crazy,” Campbell said.

Another controversy surrounds school districts that have tried to continue their academic curriculum online during the closure. State Superintendent Michael Rice said Friday that the period of time during the school closure would not count toward the state-mandated 180-day school calendar, even for districts that said they were holding full school days online.

Whitmer said Friday she was “dismayed” by Rice’s guidelines, and said she would work to make sure seniors graduate and other students are able to advance to their next grade in September.

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