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Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

Settle in, kids. Gov. Whitmer says it’s ‘very unlikely’ schools will reopen this year.

It is “very unlikely” that students will return to school this year, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Friday.

Her comments underscored the severity of the COVID-19 outbreak in Michigan, where 60 deaths and 2,856 cases have been reported. Detroit is among the hardest-hit areas in the country

“It’s probably very unlikely that they’re going to get back in school before the end of the year,” Whitmer said in a morning interview on WWJ news radio in Detroit. “I haven’t made that call yet because I want to make sure we’ve got a plan to meet the needs of our kids and that’s what we are working on. It’s not something you develop overnight because we’ve got an inequitable system across the state of Michigan and we’ve got unique needs that we’ve got to make sure get met.”

Whitmer’s comments are sure to compound the anxiety felt by educators and students, who are looking for answers about how the state will handle online learning, paying school staff, and other issues related to the closures. Key policymakers met this week to hammer out solutions, with some saying that some clarification, at least, will come this week.

Schools are already closed through at least April 13 and Michigan’s economic outlook looks increasingly bleak, a double whammy that all but guarantees significant learning loss in coming months, research suggests.

In an effort to limit the academic backslide, the state’s wealthier school districts have already moved some of their instruction online. Many others, though, don’t have the technology or internet access needed to make the transition to virtual learning.

There had already been calls to shutter buildings through the rest of the year. “Opening too early will lead to numerous challenges, mainly extreme levels of student and employee absences that will undermine the expected learning experience in schools,” Detroit Superintendent Nikolai Vitti wrote on Monday in an open letter to Whitmer and other officials.