Lansing's public schools to go virtual amid surge in COVID cases

The Detroit News

Lansing's public schools will move to virtual classes next week amid surging COVID-19 cases in the state, the district announced Saturday.

Lansing School District Superintendent Ben Shuldiner

The district described the move, which begins Monday and goes through Jan. 7, as being necessary out of an "abundance of caution."

"Each school will be contacting families with details about technology distribution for those without devices and with login information," the district said in a release Saturday. "All teachers and staff will report to their schools/buildings, but students will attend virtually."

The move comes as other Michigan schools move online and after the state reported a daily record number of COVID-19 cases Wednesday with 25,858 reported over two days. The state's largest counties, clustered in Metro Detroit, are seeing the highest rates of infections.

On Friday, Detroit Public Schools Community District superintendent Nikolai Vitti announced the cancellation of all in-person and online classes Monday through Wednesday so employees can be tested for COVID.

A day earlier, in a message to education leaders, Elizabeth Hertel, director of the state Department of Health and Human Services, and Michael Rice, the state superintendent, said universal indoor mask-wearing at schools is "critical" right now to ensure students can continue learning in person.

In addition to encouraging mask-wearing, the officials also recommended "regular testing" in school settings and advised superintendents to postpone or use remote technology to hold large gatherings involving more than 100 people.

Most schools have been on break over the last two weeks for Christmas and other holidays but will return on Monday amid rising concerns about the omicron variant.

"As omicron variant cases increase in Michigan, it is important for all schools to review their planned activities for events and gatherings," the letter from Hertel and Rice said. "MDHHS advises modifications to planned activities during and after school where the ability to maintain social distancing between people who live in different households cannot be maintained."

The letter to superintendents comes after mask orders in two Michigan counties expired earlier this month. Kalamazoo’s order expired on Dec. 17 and Genesee’s order expired on Dec. 22. Kent and Ottawa counties have orders that are set to expire on Monday.

St. Clair County issued a new mask mandate on Tuesday for K-12 students, which is in effect from Jan. 3-28.