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Nearly 90% of Michigan school districts are giving students a face-to-face learning option

No students are in the classrooms at Lakewood High School on March 16, 2020, in Lakewood, Colorado.
In Michigan, 86% of the school districts and charter schools in the state are offering some in-person instruction.
RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post

Most Michigan school districts and charter schools are offering some form of in-person instruction to begin the school year, according to the results of a first-of-its-kind study released Friday.

About 59% of the districts are offering the option of five days a week of in-person instruction, while 27% are offering students the option of returning to school buildings two to three days a week, with the remaining days spent learning online.

Most schools are also offering an online only option.

The report is based on a study, completed by researchers at the Education Policy Innovation Collaborative at Michigan State University, of more than 800 reopening plans school districts and charter schools were required to file earlier this month.

The results provide a statewide picture of what the 2020-21 school year will look like for students and school staff.

The Michigan Department of Education worked with the researchers to read, analyze, and code the contents of those plans.

Katharine Strunk, the director of the MSU research collaborative, said she was most surprised at the high number of districts offering an in-person option.

“Given what we’ve been reading and the national conversation, I was expecting to see a lot higher proportion of districts being fully remote,” Strunk said.

In-person versus online instruction has been hotly debated in some areas of the state, especially in Detroit where the school district is offering both options but has come under fire for reopening school buildings.

State Superintendent Michael Rice said in a statement that with masks and other safety protocols in place, “many children will have the opportunity to learn in person at the beginning of this school year.”

Rice also added that “teaching and learning in school are a viable option for many Michigan kids as the school year starts.”

In-person versus online instruction has been hotly debated in some areas of the state, especially in Detroit where the school district is offering both options but has come under fire for reopening school buildings.

Critics of in-person instruction have said it’s not safe for school buildings to reopen without risking the transmission of COVID-19. Districts providing face-to-face classes say parents need that option.

On Thursday, the Detroit school district and the union representing teachers and other school employees reached an agreement that averts a threatened “safety” strike that would have resulted in teachers refusing to teach in school buildings but willing to teach online. As part of the agreement, the district will provide regular but voluntary testing for students and staff, hazard pay for those teaching in school buildings, and create a district/union committee that will meet weekly to go over pandemic data.

To read the report, go here.

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