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86% of Michigan school districts offering some in-person learning

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

According to a study by Michigan State University, 86% of Michigan school districts will offer some or all instruction in-person at the beginning of the school year.

The study, conducted by Michigan State University’s Education Policy Innovation Collaborative in partnership with the Michigan Department of Education, found 59% of Michigan school districts are offering students an option to return to school five days a week and 27% of districts are providing students with the ability to return to schools at least two to three days a week.

According to a study by Michigan State University, 86% of Michigan school districts will offer some or all instruction in-person at the beginning of the school year.

State Superintendent Michael Rice said the data show it is critical that students and staff mask up.

"With masks and other careful mitigation strategies, many children will have the opportunity to learn in person at the beginning of this school year,” said Rice. “With schools abiding by the requirements and many of the recommendations in the MI Safe Schools Roadmap, teaching and learning in school are a viable option for many Michigan kids as the school year starts.”

Researchers from EPIC collaborated with the state to read, analyze and code contents of 823 "Return to Learn" plans submitted by Michigan school districts as of Aug. 17. The data represent 99% of all 832 traditional and charter school districts in the state, officials said.

The study identified the various modes of instruction that districts are planning to provide to begin the school year: fully in-person, fully remote/online or a hybrid.

Rice said distance instruction doesn’t preclude districts from offering small classes in school with masks, social distancing and other mitigation efforts.

Katharine Strunk, the director of EPIC and a professor of education policy and economics at MSU, said the pandemic is disproportionately harming groups that are traditionally less well served by schools across the country, including low-income students, students of color, students with disabilities, English language learners and homeless students.

"It is critical that we support these young people, even or especially in the midst of a pandemic,” Strunk said.

Eighty-four percent of districts that submitted Return to Learn Plans are in Phase 4 regions (where virus cases, deaths and hospitalizations are "clearly declining"), while the rest are in Phase 5 regions (with continued improvement in cases and deaths). EPIC and MDE collected data pertaining to districts’ plans for both of these phases and then analyzed how districts are expected to reopen based on their current phase.

“There are regional patterns in districts’ reopening,” Strunk said. “For instance, districts in Phase 5 are more likely to offer fully in-person or the option for in-person schooling."

"By contrast, over a quarter of districts in the Lansing region plan to offer all instruction remotely and districts in the Detroit region are twice as likely as districts across the state to offer hybrid instruction,” Strunk said.

jchambers@detroitnews.com