Governor/MDHHS Orders High Schools to Move to Remote Learning Beginning Wednesday, November 18

Governor/MDHHS Orders High Schools to Move to Remote Learning Beginning Wednesday, November 18

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) issued a new emergency order this evening that enacts a three-week pause targeting indoor social gatherings and other group activities in an effort to curb rapidly rising COVID-19 infection rates. This includes requiring colleges and high schools to move exclusively to remote learning. Further, schools may not offer extra-curricular activities or athletics in-person for any grades during the three week period. The transition to remote learning at the High School will take place on Wednesday, November 18, 2020 and run through Tuesday, December 8, 2020. Specific information on this transition will be provided by the High School staff.

The MDHHS made clear, “Michigan has seen fewer outbreaks associated with elementary and middle schools, and younger children are most in need of in-person instruction. In-person K-8 schooling may continue if it can be done with strong mitigation, including mask requirements, based on discussion between local health and school officials. Childcare also remains open to support working parents. Throughout this crisis, Michigan’s teachers and childcare workers have served on the front lines ensuring support for working parents and educating our children.”

I am certain that this decision will raise the question “What about grades K- 8?”

In every decision we make, consideration is given to maintaining instruction for our early learners, special education students, and other high risk learners as long as we can continue to provide a safe environment and manage staffing shortages. The data below clearly shows that the rate of community transmission has had little or no impact on the safety of our in-person students, particularly in the early grades. 

While the risk of community transmission has sharply increased in the community, the ability of the District to implement mitigation strategies is clearly working to severely limit the transmission of COVID-19 in school or at school related events. Of the 3000 students and staff  in our schools each day, less than 1% have been identified as a positive or probable case in the first 10 weeks. The number of cases and quarantines at the elementary and middle school levels has been minimal in comparison to the high school. In the school setting, there have only been three identified cases of transmission in county schools (and none at the K-8 level). This equates to less than 1/10th of 1% of the COVID-19 cases in the county. 

The data is clear. In-person instruction is NOT contributing to the current upward trajectory of cases in the community, nor has the sharp increase of cases in the community equated to transmissions in the school setting. The highly regulated behavior managed through our mitigation strategies is preventing infection in our schools, helping us maintain a safe environment and supporting the ongoing face-to-face instruction that is helping us fill the learning gaps caused by last year’s closure.

The movement of the High School to remote learning for a period of three weeks will certainly have an impact on the number of cases and subsequent quarantines we have seen this fall. We will continue to closely monitor the number of cases and quarantines associated with our schools with particular attention paid to transmission rates in schools. If in-person learning leads to an upward trend of school outbreaks or if staffing issues persist, a move to remote learning at all levels may be necessitated.

We understand that schools play a vital role in our communities, and we’ve seen that having the in-person option this school year has provided a significant benefit for the academic, social, emotional, and physical well-being of our students and families. I cannot say enough about the collective effort that has allowed us to continue to offer education options to our families. Through our experience this fall, it has become abundantly clear that the better we do with our mitigation strategies, the longer we will be able to keep schools open and offer the option of in-person instruction. We continue to be committed to doing all we can to support ongoing in-person instruction, particularly for our youngest students and our at-risk learners. We will continue to do so as long as we can continue to provide a safe environment and manage staffing shortages.