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If Michigan waits to start the next school year until the traditional after Labor Day opening date, students will have been out of classrooms for more than six months.

That shouldn't happen. Even with online learning now underway in most districts, it is no substitute for face-to-face instruction.

In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom has set a goal for getting kids back to school in July, or early August at the latest.

That state is developing plans to minimize the risk and assure the schools can implement reasonable social distancing and other safety precautions.

It's a goal Michigan should adopt as well. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer officially closed classrooms April 2, two-and-a-half months before the end of the school year, due to the threat from COVID-19. 

Starting the next school year one or two months early will allow teachers time to do remedial instruction to make up for the learning time lost, and better assure that students are prepared to start classes at the next grade level.

Teachers in California are pushing back on the idea. Contracts in Michigan will likely have to be renegotiated to allow for the earlier start and much longer school year. But teachers and their unions should remember that districts here kept instructors on the payroll instead of laying them off after classes were suspended.

Most districts are already deep into planning for how to do a safe reopening of the schools this fall. Accelerating that process to allow for a summertime resumption should be the target.

Districts should be working with parents and teachers to educate them on best practices for protecting against the virus, and stocking up on supplies necessary to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

Michigan schools already lag their peers nationwide in education performance. Six months out of the classroom will set them back further.

Shoot for a July school reopening, and act with urgency to make it happen safely.

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