The right decision

The coronavirus has taken the globe by storm and folks across the world have been forced into some incredibly difficult decisions. Michigan is no exception — our state remains toward the top of the list with regard to confirmed cases in the U.S.

Many of us have been taken aback by this epidemic. With modern medicine and advancements in technology, many never thought we could reach the point we are currently at now.

During times of emergency, the governor of the state of Michigan assumes certain temporary authorities, which Gov. Whitmer has used numerous times since mid-March. She has implemented several orders imploring folks to stay home and limit their trips out in public in an effort to limit the spread of the deadly virus.

On April 2, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer used her authority to close public and private school buildings for the remainder of the 2020 school year. While we all would have preferred this wasn’t the case, it was the correct decision and was made in the best interests of our students’ health and safety.

Executive Order 2020-35 allows schools to move forward with distance learning rather than missing a potential 60 days of face-to-face classroom instruction.

Other directives in this order will help schools move forward with educating students using distance learning and waive requirements applicable to state assessments, accountability, teacher evaluations and the third-grade reading law for the current school year. Attendance requirements tied to school funding are also suspended.

Going forward, every district’s plan will be different and will reflect what’s best and feasible for the needs of students in their community. A plan can include learning by any number of modes of instruction delivery, including a hybrid approach. Districts must ensure their plans are appropriate and accessible for all students and families to participate in. If a plan relies on online instruction, districts must work to ensure every student who needs it has access to the internet.

Students and families will not be penalized if they are unable to participate in their alternate learning plan.

The governor’s executive order also requires each district to submit a detailed plan indicating how they will achieve effective distance learning. I think this was an important provision to include, as parents deserve to know how schools will prepare their children for the next step in their academic careers.

Many teachers and parents have gone above and beyond during this difficult time and have been doing outstanding work to ensure their students and children have been keeping up since their schools were closed. I fully recognize the hard work and inventive efforts of our teachers and call on them to keep up the phenomenal work.

As people across the state and nation work to adjust their daily routines and do what’s best for their families, it’s important to remember that we’ll get through this together. Michiganders have time and again proven their resiliency, and when it’s safe to do so, we will pick up where we left off and continue working to make Michigan a better place.

Stay safe!

Sen. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, represents the 37th state Senate District, which includes Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Chippewa, Emmet, Grand Traverse, Luce and Mackinac counties.