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Schmidt supports Return to Learn plan agreement

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Wayne Schmidt on Saturday voted in support of a bipartisan plan that would help ensure the safety of Michigan students as learning resumes this fall.

“I have had several discussions with parents, teachers, and school administrators throughout my district and the state, and the most common concern is the ability to resume lessons while keeping teachers and students safe,” said Schmidt, R-Traverse City. “This bipartisan agreement empowers schools to make decisions that are in the best interest of their students.”

The impact of COVID-19 varies over time and across geography. Under the Return to Learn plan, school districts must develop health and safety guidelines for all in-person instruction. The guidelines must be based on local data and developed in consultation with county health departments and help inform staff, parents and the community as to how and why certain instruction models are selected.

“COVID-19 has affected different parts of our state differently,” Schmidt said. “Local districts are in the best position to decide what form of learning is appropriate to meet their needs. Each district will consult with their local health department throughout the school year to determine the best and safest form of learning.”

The Return to Learn plan gives districts flexibility on the total number of mandated instructional days and hours as long as a full school year’s worth of instruction is provided. The bills also require regular two-way interaction between students and teachers, regardless of how they are offering classes. This is intended to ensure students enrolled in distance learning options receive the benefit of personal attention.

Under this legislation, funding will be determined using a blend of the 2019-2020 school year pupil count and the 2020-2021 school year pupil count. The blended formula will help ensure stability in funding levels.

The bills also require benchmark testing to be conducted in the classroom, online or at home. Test results will be shared with parents, so they understand their child’s learning needs, and they will be used by each school district to establish academic goals.

“These unpredictable times have made daily life difficult for many Michigan families,” Schmidt said. “The goal of this legislation is to relieve some stress on parents, teachers and administrators and provide them with sound options that allow them to move forward with the best interest of their communities in mind.”

The bills now head to the House of Representatives, where they are expected to receive final approval and be sent to the governor for her signature.