02 April 2020

Governor Whitmer Cancels Remainder of School Year

***Information and guidance in client updates was up to date at time of publication. During the pandemic, information and guidance has been changing rapidly. If you have any questions about the information contained in a client update, please contact the author(s) or your Miller Johnson attorney.***

As the COVID-19 pandemic has continued, it seemed inevitable that Governor Whitmer would eventually replace her order temporarily closing Michigan K-12 schools with an order cancelling in-person instruction for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. On April 2, 2020, Governor Whitmer did just that by issuing Executive Order No. 20-35, which cancels in-person instruction for the remainder of the school year in all K-12 public, non-public, and boarding schools unless restrictions on public gatherings and use of school buildings are lifted before the end of the 2019-2020 school year.

The Executive Order (Order) addresses a wide-range of issues, but highlights include the following:

  • Public schools must implement Continuity of Learning and COVID-19 Response Plans (Plan) to provide continuing education to students during the school closure in order to avoid having their state aid eligibility impacted by the Governor’s cancellation of in-person instruction.
  • For school districts that implement a Plan, the Order:
    • Suspends strict compliance with pupil attendance and instruction time requirements for purposes of determining eligibility for state aid
    • Provides that 13 additional days will be counted as school attendance days even though no instruction may have been provided on those days
    • Provides that another 5 days may be used for purposes of preparing a Plan and those days will be counted as school attendance days
  • The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) must publish a template Plan by April 3, 2020
  • Local districts must submit their Plans to their intermediate school district (ISD) for approval, and the ISD must begin reviewing Plans by April 8, 2020. Public school academies’ Plans should be submitted to and approved by their authorizing body
    School districts must begin implementing their Plans by April 28, 2020
  • Requirements related to student assessments under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that have been waived by the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) need not be addressed in districts’ Plans
  • Strict compliance with Revised School Code provisions related to standardized testing and assessments is suspended
  • Strict compliance with Revised School Code provisions related to teacher and administrator performance evaluations is suspended
  • Decisions regarding the awarding of credit, the issuance of grades, and the use of pass or fail designations will be made at the district level “with due recognition of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic”
  • For 12th grade students, districts must implement a process to issue grades, award credits needed for graduation, provide for completion of the Michigan Merit Curriculum, issue diplomas, and reflect continued learning
  • Districts must strive – in good faith and to the extent practicable under present circumstances – to provide equal access to alternative modes of instruction to students with disabilities. The Order refers to the USDOE’s guidance on educating students with disabilities in light of COVID 19 and requests MDE and the Michigan Department of Civil Rights to submit formal requests to USDOE for interpretation, guidance, flexibility and waivers related to providing continued education and services to students with disabilities.
  • Requires that the order be implemented consistent with existing collective bargaining agreements

For any questions on this Executive Order, please contact the authors or your Miller Johnson attorney.