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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said she was “dismayed” to see a memo sent to local school districts by the Michigan Department of Education on Friday.
The memo informed districts that online instruction offered while K-12 schools in the state are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic won’t count toward their state-mandated instructional requirements.
“There is no mechanism to earn instructional time during a period of mandated school closure,” the memo said.
Students are required to receive 1,098 instructional hours per year under Michigan law.
The memo also informed districts that the department will not be granting seat time waiver requests.
The Michigan Department of Education reports to the state board of education, not the governor.
Whitmer signed an executive order closing all K-12 schools in the state through April 5 to stop the spread of COVID-19, but has said the closures may have to be extended.
“We are going to work to make sure that kids are getting the instruction, or the equivalent of an instruction, as needed so that they can finish this year having gotten the education that they’re supposed to get,” Whitmer said.
Stacie Clayton, the chair of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission, said in a statement Friday that state must ensure equity for all K-12 students in Michigan – something that online instruction could potentially complicate.
“As we work to educate our students in a time of crisis and uncertainty, we must do everything we can to ensure all students have the resources they need, regardless of their race, religion or ethnicity, any disability they may have or the zip code where they live,” said Clayton.
The first two presumptive-positive cases of COVID-19 in Michigan were confirmed on March 10. Whitmer declared a state of emergency in Michigan the same day and has since issued executive orders to close schools and restaurants and to limit the size of gatherings to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The number of confirmed cases in the state reached 549 as of 10 am Friday, including 215 new confirmed cases since Thursday, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
Three people in Michigan have died from the virus.