Michigan Return to Learn - Back to School Fall 2020

State of Michigan Return to Learn Plan

At a 3p press conference on June 30, Governor Whitmer released details of the Return to Learn Plan. The MI Safe Schools Roadmap is available online from the Governor’s office. I have created a summary below:

Note: This article is being updated as I read through the 63 page document.. It will be edited for formatting, typos, and corrections after initial survey.


Michigan Return to Learn

Governor Whitmer signed an executive order requiring every school to develop a plan based on various public health scenarios. In phase 4 or 5 in person classes can resume.

The MI Safe Schools Roadmap was developed with the following principles:

  • Equitable access is a right for all each child
  • Schools will use data & evidence to prioritize resources
  • Collaboration with parents, students, and taechers
  • Teachers & staff will prioritize deep, meaningful relationships to create safe learning environments for each child.

There are both Required protocols and those that are Strongly Recommended or Recommended.

School Opening Scenarios

The roadmap looks at 4 scenarios for Fall 2020 and beyond. The scenarios depend on the phase of teh MI Safe Start Phase at any point in time.

  • Phase 1-3 – No in person instruction
  • Phase 4 – Schools open for in person instruction with stringent required safety protocols
  • Phase 5 – Schools open for in person instruction with moderate required safety protocols
  • Phase 6 – Schools open for in person instruction with minimal required safety protocols

We are currently in Phase 4. As long as we do not backslide, we can have in-person instruction in Fall 2020.


Key Provisions

Families have expressed a few key questions about what instruction will look like in the fall.

  • In Person Days – The plan does not explicitly require a staggered attendance schedule. However, it does strongly recommend distance in the classroom which may require districts to implement a staggered schedule.
  • Face Masks – In phase 4, face masks are required all the time for staff and middle and high school students. PreK-5th grade students will wear masks on transportation, in common areas of the building, and when not with their class. They are strongly recommended in phase 5 (my understanding is a district can require them)
  • Health Screening – The state roadmap does NOT include daily screening of students or staff for temperature or symptoms. Staff should check temperature daily and assess symptoms. Families are encouraged to temperatures as well

Most shocking to me is that districts are strongly recommended to, but not required to notify families if there has been a positive COVID-19 test or clinical diagnosis in the classroom or school. I do not understand how it is not required to inform families that there was a positive test in a classroom. How Ann Arbor Public Schools addresses this notification will affect my decision to send my daughter to school.

Phase 1-3

There are no in-person classes in phases 1-3 of the MI Safe Start Plan. All learning is virtual As of June 30, we are in Phase 4. I am hopeful that Michigan will not move back to Phase 3.

In Phase 1-3, school buildings may be used by faculty and staff for basic school operation including remote live instruction. School buildings may also be used by licensed child care providers following state guidelines.

It is strongly recommended that districts revise their remote learning plans based on feedback from school leaders, educators, families, and students. Districts are encouraged to integrate both synchronous and asynchronous learning. IEPs, IFSPs, and 504 plans should be reviewed to design accommodations as needed including online intervention and support services, Schools should assess the technology available to families and how to support them.

Schools are strongly recommended to take a number of steps to address mental and social-emotional health. They should create a mental health screening for all students while maintaining HIPAA and FERPA policies.


Phase 4 Road Map

Facial Coverings

I know this has been a huge question for many parents. Face Masks are a part of the Phase 4 protection.

Face masks are required for:

  • Faculty & Staff must wear them except when eating. PreK-5 and special education teachers should consider clear masks.
  • Students
    • on school transportation
    • in hallways and common areas except during meals
    • in all classrooms for grades 6-12
    • for grades K-5 unless they remain with their class throughout the day

Exceptions are made for individuals who cannot tolerate a face mask or is unable to remove their own mask.

Face masks can be homemade or disposable. Homemade masks must be washed daily. Disposable masks must be disposed of at the end of the day.


Schools need to provide adequte supplies for proper hygiene behaviors – soap, hand sanitizer, paper towels, tissues, and signs. Schools must teach and reinforce proper handwashing.

It is highly recommended that sharing of supplies is limited and that students personal items are kept separate. Schools should limit use of classroom materials to small groups and disinfect between use. Plans for hand washing every 2-3 hours should be made.


Spacing in Classroom


There are no required actions for districts to take for social distancing.

Strongly Recommended Actions

Desks should be placed at least 6′ apart in classroom with class sizes adjusted accordingly. Desks should all face the same direction. Teachers should maintain 6′ between themselves and students as much as possible. Family members and guests are not allowed in the school building except for extenuating circumstances

Recommended Actions

It is recommended that windows be open when possible. Specials should be brought to the classroom when possible. Schools can consider a staggered attendance schedule with alternate dates of attendance and/or virtual teaching. Schools should discourage congregating at arrival and dismissal. Physical education classes should be held outside when possible with 6 feet of distance maintained. Separate entrances and exits should be established to keep traffic moving in one direction.

Busing/Student Transportation

Busing can still be provided. Masks are required on the bus. Hand sanitizer needs to be provided on the bus and must be used before boarding. Buses must be cleaned and disinfected before and after each route. Weather permitting keep the doors and windows open between trips and while in motion.

Screening Students and Staff & Response to Positive Cases

Required Actions

Schools must cooperate with the local public health department for implementing screening protocols.

Strongly Recommended Actions

It is strongly recommended that each school identify a quarantine area and staff for students who are sick until they can be picked up. Staff should wearing surgical masks or N95 masks when caring for the sick students. Students cannot return without a negative test or a complete recovery by CDC standards.

It is strongly recommended (but not required) that families be notified of a positive test or clinically diagnosed case in the classroom or school. Notification followed by quarantine is strongly recommended for anyone with more than a 15 minute exposure within 6 feet.

Recommended Actions

Families are encouraged to monitor their child’s temperature every morning and keep them home with a fever. The state plan does not include a recommendation for daily temperature checks for students.


Food Service, Gatherings, & Extra Curricular

There may not be indoor assemblies that bring together more than one classroom.

It is recommended that classrooms or outdoor areas be used for school meals. If cafeterias are used, it is recommended to stagger meal times to create 6′ distance between students.

Off-site field trips requiring busing to an indoor location should be suspended. Recess should be outside when possible. If more than one class is outside, masks should be used.


If using buses for inter-school competitions face masks are required.

Phase 5 Road Map

On a quick review – Phase 5 is very similar to Phase 4 with required steps moved down to Strongly Recommended or Recommended. I hope Ann Arbor and most districts will be implementing many of these recommended protocols.


Phase 6 Road Map

Phase 6 is post pandemic. This is mostly a return to school the way it was in the past.

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