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Most Michigan students have option: Return to class or learn at home

Back to school

  • 16 percent of districts and charters will offer only full-time, in-person instruction.
  • 43 percent will offer an option of fully in-person, but not require it 
  • 10 percent will have only a hybrid model that includes some face-to-face learning and remote instruction.
  • 17 percent will offer an option of hybrid learning.
  • 12 percent are fully remote for all students to begin the school year. Those online-only schools enroll about 19 percent of Michigan students.
  • 3 percent of districts and charters weren’t specific about their learning models in the school reopening plans.

*Numbers may not equal 100% due to rounding.

Most Michigan school districts will give students at least the option of returning to classrooms, according to a study released Friday.

The study, by the Education Policy Innovation Collaborative at Michigan State University, which examined the school reopening plans of more than 800 school districts and charter schools, found that 86 percent of districts and charters will allow students to learn in school buildings at least some of each week, should they choose. Those schools enroll 79 percent of the state’s 1.5 million K-12 students.

More than seven of 10 districts and charters also plan to offer at least the option of remote learning at least part of the school week.

Michigan’s public and private K-12 school buildings were ordered closed in mid-March by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19. About 1.5 million schoolchildren switched overnight to remote learning, either by computer or printed packets of school work.

For this fall, as long as Michigan remains in what state officials call pandemic Phase 4 or higher, schools have the option of reopening for in-person instruction, sticking with remote learning, or a mix of both. School officials have worked for months with local health departments to craft reopening plans, often after taking parent surveys.

Schools were required to submit detailed reopening plans to intermediate school districts and the Michigan Department of Education in mid-August. Those plans lay out safety protocols such as when and where face masks must be worn and procedures schools plan to follow if a student or teacher contracts the coronavirus.

The survey found the Lansing area has the highest proportion of schools that are starting the year online-only (26 percent) followed by metro Detroit (15 percent). The lowest rate of online-only schools is the northeast section of the Lower Peninsula (which includes Traverse City), at 2 percent.

The study found little difference in instructional models between traditional school districts and charters.

“With masks and other careful mitigation strategies, many children will have the opportunity to learn in person at the beginning of this school year,” State Superintendent Michael Rice said in a news release about the study. 

“With schools abiding by the requirements and many of the recommendations in the MI Safe Schools Roadmap, teaching and learning in school are a viable option for many Michigan kids as the school year starts.”

Online learning protects students from the potential of contracting COVID-19 in crowded classrooms, but also has the potential of increasing learning gaps, said Katharine Strunk, the director of EPIC and a professor of education policy and economics at Michigan State University.

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