Michigan’s education community has voiced its support of a three-week shutdown of in-person learning and other activities for high schools, colleges and universities in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus.
On Sunday evening, Nov. 15, several groups threw support behind the Department of Health and Human Services’ epidemic order aimed at reducing indoor gatherings.
Among other things, the order suspends all in-person learning for high schools, colleges and universities for three weeks — starting Nov. 18 and continuing until Dec. 8. Decisions for in-person learning at elementary and middle schools are left up to individual districts, though schools will require mask wearing.
“While these new restrictions may be a challenge for many of us, it’s nothing that we haven’t already been able to successfully navigate during 2020,” reads a statement from the Michigan Association of Superintendents & Administrators.
“As an Association, MASA is glad to see the decisive action that our members have been seeking to help guide them in keeping their communities safe, while also prioritizing learning for their most vulnerable student populations.”
Related: Michigan shutters in-person dining, high school sports in response to COVID-19 case surge
The group said student learning will remain paramount. However, it is “imperative that we also focus on the health and safety of our students, educators, staff, families, and community.”
The Michigan Association of School Boards said it “fully supports” the state’s coordinated response to the rising COVID-19 cases.
While not ideal, the group’s executive director, Don Wotruba, said MASB is hopeful that three weeks without as many students and employees in the buildings will positively contribute to lowering the state’s COVID-19 numbers.
In a joint statement, officials from the Michigan Community College Association, Michigan Association of State Universities and Michigan Independent Colleges and Universities said they support the suspension of “virtually all on-campus activities not directly involved in research, including ending in-person classroom operations.
“Many of our member colleges are in communities that are struggling with hospital capacity due to the recent resurgence of the pandemic,” said Mike Hansen, president of the MCCA, in a prepared statement. “We are ready to do our part to help curb the spread of COVID-19.”
MASU CEO Dan Hurley called the state’s action necessary, and said further action was needed beyond what campuses were doing to keep students and staff safe.
“The data shows we must be more aggressive in urging people – including college students and staff — to avoid even small gatherings if we are going to be successful in reducing the spread of COVID-19,” Hurley said.
Many schools had already planned to avoid post-Thanksgiving classes, according to association executives.
Michigan reported 7,072 new coronavirus cases and 65 new deaths on Saturday, Nov. 14. The state is averaging more than 6,000 new cases and more than 50 new deaths over the last week.
Hospitalizations and positive test rates also continue to rise, which have raised concerns for leaders of Michigan’s health care systems.
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