Governor decrees school is over for the year

On Thursday, Governor Gretchen Whitmer “order[ed] all K-12 school buildings to close for the remainder of the school year — unless restrictions are lifted — and ensures continuing of learning by setting guidelines for remote learning. District facilities may be used by public school employees and contractors for the purposes of facilitating learning at a distance while also practicing social distancing.” The executive order was not a surprise; Bridge Magazine wrote about a draft of it on Monday.

Reactions came from groups all over the state.

Most important to the immediate area, the statement below  is from the Superintendent of the Muskegon Area Intermediate School District and the superintendents of the following individual school districts:

Fruitport Community Schools
Holton Public Schools
Mona Shores Public Schools
Montague Area Public Schools
Muskegon Public Schools
Muskegon Heights Public School Academy System
North Muskegon Public Schools
Oakridge Public Schools
Orchard View Schools
Ravenna Public Schools
Reeths-Puffer Schools
Whitehall District Schools


April 2, 2020

Dear Parents/Guardians:

Earlier today Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued an Executive Order closing all Michigan schools through the end of this school year, unless restrictions are lifted. The Governor’s action speaks to how serious this health crisis is. It also indicates how deeply this crisis is expected to impact our communities.

Our hearts are heavy with the loss of so many important moments, especially for our graduating class of 2020, but we recognize this action is a needed step to limit the spread of the Coronavirus.

In the Executive Order the Governor announced high school seniors who were on track to graduate before the school building closure will be allowed to graduate; all other students who were on track are expected to progress to the next grade level as well.

Governor Whitmer said she is concerned for the children of our state and is committed to continued learning and support for them during the coming months.

She has given clear direction to our schools and Intermediate School Districts across the state to continue to connect with and teach our students remotely through the end of the school year. While this type of “school” cannot replace the rich, face-to-face learning that takes place inside our classrooms, our staff are ready for this challenge. Many students will not have access to the high-tech learning devices and robust online connections they enjoy within our schools. Our staff will do what they can to reach these students as well.

You are your children’s first and best teacher, a role you fulfill by helping them continue to be engaged in learning. Assure them learning will continue at home, even though our school buildings are closed. Let your children know their teachers will be reaching out to them over the next few weeks. Read all emails and listen to messages sent from the school and check with your older children to find out if they are participating in learning opportunities.

Most of all, protect your children from the Coronavirus by keeping them at home and observing social distancing, when they might be out-of-doors. Talk to your children about frequent hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes, not touching their eyes, nose, or mouth.  Also clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

Although this is a rapidly changing and uncertain time, our schools will continue to serve. We will finish the year strong, even in the midst of this hardship.

MAISD & Public Schools in Muskegon County


A variety of other organizations stepped up to comment on the governor’s executive order.

Project Director Robert McCann of the School Finance Research Collaborative Project, a diverse group of business leaders and education experts from Metro Detroit to the U.P. who agree it’s time to change the way Michigan’s schools are funded, said the following:

“The School Finance Research Collaborative supports Gov. Whitmer’s executive order closing public school buildings for the remainder of the school year to protect the health, safety and well-being of all Michigan students, families, teachers and support staff. For schools to be successful in supporting students through this crisis, they will need lawmakers to step up, provide badly needed funding immediately, and fix Michigan’s broken funding formula to ensure schools have the flexibility they need going forward.”

Michigan’s State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice offered the following comment:

“In this public health crisis, the governor continues to put public health first. I appreciate her efforts to address public health and public education needs at this extraordinarily difficult time.

“Michigan educators are creative, intelligent, and hard-working. Given the very different circumstances within and across districts in Michigan, they will do their best to provide for the needs of children during this pandemic.”

Law firms also weighed in quickly, and will continue to do so in the coming days. Varnum said in a press release, “With Governor Whitmer extending K-12 school closures through the rest of the academic year, many are wondering about the cascading impact on administrators, teachers, students and vendors.”

The Michigan League for Public Policy noted that its Kids Count Data Center ( has data on student’s Internet access at home.
Statewide, 87.7 percent of children (0-17) in the state live in homes with access to the Internet. The 12.3 percent of kids who do not have Internet at home comes out to around 266,000 kids. Kids’ internet access by county ranges between 65 percent and 96 percent, and is lowest in rural areas.

“Everyone is trying their best to cope with the COVID-19 crisis, from the governor and state officials to our teachers, parents and kids. Closing schools for the year was surely a difficult decision, but it's the right one,” said Kelsey Perdue, Kids Count in Michigan Director. “But as schools move to remote learning for the remainder of the year, it's important to understand the circumstances and needs of local kids. The governor addressed that by allowing school districts to develop their own plans, and the data shows that many districts will need to look beyond online learning and look at other approaches to make sure all students have access as part of any remote learning plans.”     

Household Internet access is also highly relevant in the discussion of the 2020 Census, as in-person census-taking and large informational events on the census have both been suspended due to the COVID-19 crisis.

The Michigan League for Public Policy also released a set of policy recommendations related to the COVID-19 crisis earlier this week, which are available at

And finally, the usually-conservative though nonpartisan Mackinac Center for Public Policy stated:

“Gov. Whitmer's decision to keep school buildings closed for the rest of the 2019-2020 year will require local districts to find safe and creative ways to educate. The requirement to submit a plan ‘to provide alternative modes of instruction’ in order to receive further state funding sends a positive signal. But it remains to be seen to what extent districts take advantage of the added flexibility to help promote student learning.”