Jewish schools discuss their plans for “Michigan’s Return to School Roadmap. 

Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced on June 17 that schools throughout Michigan may resume in-person learning in phase 4 of her ‘MI Safe Start Plan.’ Whitmer will further announce a detailed plan called ‘Michigan’s Return to School Roadmap’ on June 30. 

Students throughout the state of Michigan have been out of the classroom since March due to the coronavirus. Many districts had moved to distance learning for the remainder of the school year to ensure that their students’ were continuing to engage in their education.  

“Our students and educators have made incredible sacrifices these past few months to protect themselves and their families from the spread of COVID-19,” Whitmer said in a press release. “Thanks to our aggressive action against this virus, those who have done their part to flatten the curve, and the heroes on the front lines, I am optimistic that we will return to in-person learning in the fall. Schools must make sure to enact strict safety measures to continue protecting educators, students, and their families. 

This detailed document, paired with an executive order, will provide further instructions on what will be required and what is recommended for schools to safely reopen this fall. It will align with her MI Safe Start Plan to determine when, where and how face-to-face instruction can resume. 

Whitmer asks for districts, students, staff, and families to be flexible and to be prepared to move backwards if there is evidence of community spread of the virus. 

The roadmap will set the minimum health and safety requirements, although districts may choose to enact more aggressive ones in consultation with local public health officials. These minimum requirements will apply to all schools, including traditional public, charter, private, and parochial schools. 

Whitmer has also asked for support and flexibility from the federal government to ensure that students and educators have the correct resources to safely return back to the classroom this fall. 

“I will continue working closely with the Return to Learn Advisory Council and leaders in health care to ensure we get this right, but we also need more flexibility and support from the federal government,” Whitmer said in a press release. “This crisis has had serious implications on our budget, and we need federal support if we’re going to get this right for our kids.” 

On May 18, the West Bloomfield School District announced their tentative plan for the upcoming school year called Classroom to Cloud. Their plan provides a roadmap for three different instructional methods for the fall, including a blended-instructional approach, continuation of the virtual learning, if mandated by Whitmer, and providing parents with the choice of keeping their child out of the classroom and continuing their distance learning. 

Dr. Josh Levisohn, the new head of school at Farber Hebrew Day School, starts his term on July 1 but has been heavily involved with scenario planning for the upcoming school year.  

We are eagerly anticipating the governor’s guidance, but we are also planning for a variety of scenarios, with the understanding that even the governor’s guidance may change over time,” Levisohn told the JN. “We have contingencies in place (or being put in place) for full distance learning, for full in-person learning and for a variety of different hybrid scenarios. We are communicating regularly with our parents and expect to continue with these updates throughout the summer.” 

Frankel Jewish Academy is also awaiting the governor’s guidelines so they can begin to solidify their plans for the fall to ensure the safety of all students, faculty and staff. They have been working with medical professionals and their partner institutions and hope to return in-person this school year. 

Hillel Day School has their task forces working hard on developing three different scenarios for the upcoming school year to ensure that all teachers and students are prepared for what the fall might bring. 

Their scenarios include on campus learning with physical distancing guidelines, the transitional model which means that if there is a second-wave of coronavirus cases this fall, teachers can swiftly transition to virtual learning, and lastly the flexible model which allows the school to meet the needs of “students, faculty and staff who may have a heightened risk and/or not be ready to return to the facility” by providing them with remote learning.