Live updates on coronavirus and Detroit schools: Michigan K-12 schools ordered to close

Two weeks ago, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered all K-12 schools in the state to close in a bid to slow the spared of the new coronavirus.

The order affects nearly 1.5 million public school students, 537 school districts and nearly 300 charter schools. Private schools are also affected.

Have questions or want to tell us about the impact on your school? Email us at or

🔗March 26

🔗Detroit to increase meals sites for students, filling gap left when the district scaled back

The city of Detroit, which is experiencing a surge in residents testing positive for the new coronavirus, is expanding the number of recreation centers serving breakfast and lunch to children during the school shutdown.

The expansion will help fill a gap left after the city school district cut back its sites due to health concerns raised by employees.

The city was already providing meals daily at four locations. Two more will now hand out meals on the days the district isn’t distributing meals. All sites will provide Detroit families with meals on Fridays that can last through the weekend.

🔗March 25

🔗Michigan policymakers: We’re working on COVID-19 questions. Educators: Hurry up!

With Michigan’s school shutdown dragging into its second week, Sen. Majority Leader Mike Shirkey held a conference call Wednesday morning to try to untangle a knot of education issues raised by the state’s ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

He asked the bipartisan group of lawmakers and education advocates to weigh in on several questions. Will school staff get paid? Are state tests going to be canceled? How can we ensure that high school seniors are allowed to graduate?

And, crucially: Will schools be forgiven for the days they’ve missed during the closure?

🔗Detroit math teacher’s bedtime stories soothe students during the school shutdown

Every night, Voncile Campbell transforms into a new fantasy character. A little boy hunting for treasure with pirates. An owl playing with a fox. A teddy bear king who can’t fall asleep.

Campbell is a math teacher at Bow Elementary-Middle School in Detroit, and since the school shut down she’s created a new role for herself as a bedtime storyteller.

By posting videos on the school’s Facebook page at 8 p.m. nightly, she’s staying connected to her students and letting them know they’re still with her in spirit during the closure.

🔗March 24

🔗‘It happened so quickly’: Detroit area advocates scramble to help vulnerable students. But first they have to find them.

After schools closed to limit the spread of the new coronavirus, advocates for Detroit’s vulnerable youth said the most frustrating part of trying to help them is finding them.

Social service agencies, schools, libraries, and community centers that provide necessities like meals, bus tickets, internet access, places to shower, and even shelter are closed or limiting their services, cutting off the resources these students depend on.

“There are a huge number of children in the city of Detroit who are facing housing instability and homelessness, and the vast majority of these children have not been identified,” said Jennifer Erb-Downward, a senior research associate at the University of Michigan’s Poverty Solutions.

🔗March 23

🔗Detroit puts temporary stop to meals distribution to reassess in light of employee concerns

The Detroit school district will begin scaling back its effort to distribute meals because of employees’ health concerns, as more of them test positive for the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

Beginning Tuesday, meals will be discontinued as the district considers its next steps. Academic packets will no longer be distributed, either, though that information is also online.

“We are reassessing how to provide meals to students that ensures everyone’s health. We will inform everyone of the new system of distribution shortly,” Detroit Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said Monday.

🔗Vitti: Close Michigan schools for the rest of the school year

Detroit district superintendent Nikolai Vitti is urging Michigan leaders to close schools for the rest of the year. 

“Family and employee health anxiety is too high to have students return to school prematurely. Opening too early will lead to numerous challenges, mainly extreme levels of student and employee absences that will undermine the expected learning experience in schools,” Vitti wrote Monday in an open letter to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, state Superintendent Michael Rice, and the state Board of Education.

Vitti also said the district is against switching to virtual instruction for academic credit. 

🔗Federal officials allow Michigan to cancel M-STEP; state lawmakers must now act

Michigan has received a waiver that will allow the state to cancel the M-STEP and other state exams this school year, but the state Legislature must also act to make that official.

“We are pleased that the U.S. Department of Education heard our call to waive the federal requirement for statewide student testing,” State Superintendent Michael Rice said in a statement Monday morning. “We now need the Michigan legislature to amend state law that requires statewide testing and accountability.”

The waiver comes after federal officials said Friday they would allow for the cancellation of state exams. Michigan officials filed a waiver that afternoon. 

🔗March 20

🔗Likely cancellation of all state tests would allow Michigan to put third-grade reading law on hold for a year

Michigan students will almost undoubtedly not have to take the M-STEP this year, after the federal government said Friday it would allow states to cancel exams because of widespread school closures.

The cancellation of state exams will mean the end, for at least a year, of Michigan’s Read by Grade 3 law, which required that beginning this year, schools would have to hold back some struggling third-graders whose scores on the M-STEP exam show they are a grade or more behind in reading.

🔗Whitmer “dismayed” state education department won’t count online instruction during shutdown

Schools offering online instruction during the state shutdown of schools won’t be able to count any of that time toward the requirements that schools provide 180 days of instruction.

That ruling from the Michigan Department of Education was met with criticism from school leaders in districts that have switched to online instruction during the shutdown. And it elicited a stern response hours later from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

“I was dismayed to see that, quite frankly,” Whitmer said during a late afternoon press conference, hours after the guidance was sent in an email to school leaders Friday morning.

🔗Michigan’s Teacher of the Year is homeschooling during the coronavirus crisis. Her children aren’t impressed.

With U.S. schools shuttered in an effort to contain the new coronavirus, millions of parents are attempting to teach their children from home. It’s no simple feat for even for the nation’s most celebrated educators.

“Just so everyone is clear: my children are not the least bit impressed at being homeschooled by the Michigan Teacher of the Year,” Cara Lougheed tweeted earlier this week, striking a chord with parents everywhere. Her message received some 12,800 likes and more than 400 retweets.

🔗March 19

🔗What’s standing between Michigan school districts and online instruction during the COVID-19 outbreak?

With 1.5 million Michigan students stuck at home in an effort to slow the spread of the new coronavirus, digital technologies seem like an obvious way to keep students connected with their schools.

But less than a week into a historic public health crisis, student learning is largely falling to families as schools opt not to attempt to hold any classes online. Superintendents recognize that not all of their students have access to the internet and a computer at home, and worry that holding classes online could get them in trouble with state and federal authorities.

🔗March 18

🔗Detroit charter school parent tests positive for coronavirus

A Detroit charter school parent has tested positive for the new coronavirus, prompting officials to suspend the pick up of academic packets at the school.

The parent has two children who attend the University Preparatory Art & Design Elementary School at 10225 3rd Ave., in Detroit.

“The children who attend the school have not shown any symptoms at this time,” a notification on the website of the University Preparatory charter network said. A letter also went home to parents. Officials from the school could not be reached for comment.

🔗How the Detroit district mobilized to provide 26,000 meals during shutdown

Edith Hampton is in urgent need of food to feed her children.

That’s what brought her out on a cloudy Wednesday morning to Mackenzie Elementary-Middle School in the Detroit district. It was the first day of a massive effort to ensure students don’t go hungry during the statewide schools shutdown that officials hope will slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

“If I don’t eat, I don’t care. As long as my kids eat. Yes, that’s all I care about,” Hampton said.

In Detroit, where child poverty rates are high and a majority of students qualify for subsidized school meals, the COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to worsen the inequities Detroit families living in poverty face. Many students in the city rely on school for breakfast and lunch, and many district and charter schools, as well as community agencies, are stepping up to provide meals. There are about 51,000 students in the district, and close to 86 percent are economically disadvantaged.

🔗March 17

🔗Whitmer to DeVos: ‘Do the right thing’ and waive student testing this year

Michigan’s education leaders are calling on the federal government to grant a nationwide waiver from rules that require students take state academic exams.

The request came in a letter from state Superintendent Michael Rice and Casandra Ulbrich, president of the state Board of Education, to Betsy DeVos, the U.S. Secretary of Education from West Michigan.

It comes a week after the U.S. Department of Education issued guidance saying it will consider waiving requirements for statewide tests.

🔗March 16

🔗MAP: Here’s where Detroit children can get meals during the three-week school shutdown for coronavirus

In a state where nearly half of the students qualify for subsidized school meals, a three-week shutdown could be overwhelming for children in need.

But many schools and community groups are working to make sure those children don’t lose out on the school meals they rely on everyday. Michigan schools are shut down through April 5 under an order from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who hopes the shutdown will slow the spread of the coronavirus.

We’ve provided a map that shows the locations where families can pick up meals. There’s a version of the map in Spanish here. If your school isn’t listed, please send the information to us at and we’ll update the map of schools and the list of organizations.

🔗What 4 parents and educators need with weeks to go in Michigan’s historic school shutdown

One thing is clear about Michigan’s statewide school shutdown, which will continue for at least three more weeks: This is going to be tough for parents and teachers.

“This is a scary time for all of us,” said Dawn Bruce Pollard, a preschool teacher at Greenfield Union Elementary-Middle School in Detroit.

Pollard will be paid during the shutdown, but she worries about students being left home alone while parents work, and about parents losing jobs so they can care for their families.

Her answers came to us via Chalkbeat’s online survey of parent and teacher needs.

🔗Detroit’s school closures: What we know about pay, testing, meals, and more

As Michigan marks the first official day of the state shutdown of schools, many questions still remain about how canceling classes for three weeks will impact schools, students, testing, and employees’ pocketbooks.

What questions do you have? Send them to me at, or to the Chalkbeat Detroit team at We’ll search for answers and report what we find here, so keep coming back for updated information.


🔗March 15

🔗Whitmer: Closing schools over COVID-19 concerns ‘the right thing to do’

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said the number of school employees who have tested positive for the new coronavirus — and the addition of a young person among the list of new cases — illustrates why she has ordered schools shuttered.

“Closing our schools in this moment is the right thing to do to ensure that parents and educators and children have the support they need,” Whitmer said during a press conference Sunday.

Whitmer spoke just after state officials announced that the number of COVID-19 cases in Michigan has grown to 45 people, up from 33 Saturday night.

🔗Detroit district confirms that Osborn staffer with COVID-19 wasn’t at training sessions last week

The Osborn High School staff member who has tested positive for the new coronavirus didn’t attend professional development sessions held last week by the Detroit district, officials said.

That answers a question teachers across the district have been asking since Saturday night, when Superintendent Nikolai Vitti notified staff that an Osborn teacher had tested positive and others at the school have exhibited symptoms.

Vitti has advised those in the Osborn learning community to self-quarantine for 14 days.

🔗March 14

🔗As the number of people with COVID-19 grows, a Detroit school staff member tests positive for the new coronavirus

A staff member from Osborn High School in the Detroit school district has tested positive for the new coronavirus, and more are exhibiting symptoms, Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said in an email to staff.

“As of tonight, other staff members have indicated they are demonstrating symptoms of COVID-19 from the school,” Vitti wrote in the email.

The staff member is now one of 33 people in Michigan who’ve tested positive for the virus, which causes COVID-19. The number increased from 25 on Friday. Symptoms include fever, coughing, sneezing, and shortness of breath.

The Detroit Public Schools Community District posted the information on its website Saturday. The news comes two days after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered all schools in the state to close beginning Monday. The closure extends through April 5, and schools would reopen on April 6.

🔗March 13

🔗‘Desperate need’: Michigan’s working parents are squeezed by shutdown of K-12 schools

The sun was high overhead on Friday afternoon, long before the end of the typical school day in Detroit, but 11-year-old Joshua Spann was on the basketball court with his friends.

School is out for the next three weeks across Michigan after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered the closure of all K-12 schools from Monday through April 5.

Some schools, Spann’s Detroit charter included, opted to also close on Friday. That’s why Shelly Franklin, Spann’s grandmother, picked him up from a basketball court on Friday afternoon instead of from school.

Franklin’s family is lucky. For those who don’t have a grandmother on call, the widespread school closures represent their own emergency.

As the number of COVID-19 cases in Michigan hits 25, school districts across the state are rushing to limit the negative effects of school closures with online lessons to prevent learning loss and adjusted meal programs for children who depend on the nutrition they get at school.

🔗Learning packets and online lessons will be available for Detroit district students starting next week

Learning will continue in the Detroit school district during the three-week school shutdown, where officials have prepared learning packets and online lessons for students.

The district’s homework hotline will also be available for families and students.

The district is among many across the state that have scrambled to come up with ways to keep students academically engaged as the threat of closures related to the coronavirus loomed. That threat became reality Thursday night when Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered all K-12 schools in the state to close over coronavirus concerns.

🔗2 Metro Detroit teachers test positive for coronavirus

A teacher at a private school in Oakland County is one of the 12 people in Michigan who have been identified as having the coronavirus.

Few details were revealed about the teacher or school during a press conference held by Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter and county health officials.

Also Friday, Dearborn Public Schools announced that one of its teachers, whose exposure to someone with coronavirus forced the closure of a school this week, has now tested positive for the virus.

🔗In a city with high poverty rates, the Detroit school district will keep meals flowing during closure

The Detroit school district will keep some school buildings partially open for students to quickly pick up breakfast or lunch while schools are closed.

The district will also provide learning materials for students for the three weeks Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has ordered all K-12 Michigan schools to close. That period begins Monday and runs through April 5, with classes expected to resume April 6.

🔗With schools closed in Michigan, teachers work on ways to help students keep learning

Roughly 1.5 million Michigan students will be out of school starting Monday for three weeks, part of a statewide effort to limit the spread of COVID-19.

That doesn’t mean they have to stop learning.

With students at home on Friday, teachers at schools across the state reported to school to develop virtual lesson plans. That included educators in West Bloomfield, a suburb of Detroit.

In a new Facebook group called Keep Michigan Learning, a teacher in Walled Lake posted an online activity she created for students last winter, when Michigan had more snow days than usual. Students posted videos of themselves describing the books they were reading at home.

Read more here.

🔗March 12

🔗Gov. Gretchen Whitmer orders statewide closure of schools

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has ordered all K-12 schools in the state to close in light of concerns about the coronavirus.

Whitmer announced the order during an 11 p.m. press conference, where she was accompanied by State Superintendent Michael Rice and other state officials.

The order affects nearly 1.5 million public school students, 537 school districts and nearly 300 charter schools. Private schools are also affected.

And a group of Michigan superintendents is asking for guidance from State Superintendent Michael Rice on a number of issues related to the impact of the new coronavirus outbreak, including what happens if schools have to close in the midst of state academic testing this spring.

“School administrators from throughout the region are receiving a growing number of questions from concerned parents regarding the health and safety of their children,” wrote Robert McCann, executive director of the Tri-County Alliance for Public Education, which represents the interests of district leaders in Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne counties.

One of the questions addresses a looming issue for Michigan. State testing begins in April, and it’s a critical year given that for the first time, the results of the third-grade reading exam will determine which struggling readers should be required to repeat the grade. That’s thanks to the state’s Read by Grade 3 law.