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Gov. Whitmer: Michigan schools closed for academic year

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is pictured. (Julia Pickett/Michigan Office of the Governor via AP, Pool)

LANSING — More than 1.5 million Michigan students will not return to K-12 school buildings the rest of the academic year due to the coronavirus pandemic and instead will learn remotely, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered Thursday.

All public and private schools are more than halfway through a four-week shutdown ordered by Whitmer to combat the outbreak.

She said face-to-face instruction will not resume this spring. Districts will create distance learning programs, with flexibility on how they do so — whether is is online or with printed materials sent to homes or some other option.

Seniors will graduate and other children will advance to the next grade, as long as they were on track to do so before the closure.

The Democratic governor said it was a ìdifficult decision,î but her No. 1 priority is protecting against the spread of COVID-19.

“As a parent, I understand the challenge closing schools creates for parents and guardians across the state, which is why we are setting guidelines for schools to continue remote learning and ensuring parents have resources to continue their childrenís education from the safety of their homes,” Whitmer said in statement issued before a scheduled press conference.

“There is no video chat or homework packet that can replace the value of a highly trained, experienced teacher working with students in a classroom, but we must continue to provide equitable educational opportunities for students during this public health crisis.”

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

Traditional districts and charter schools will get their full state funding, because the state will forgive instruction time requirements and a waive a 75% attendance rule.

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

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