Midland Daily News — School issues on agenda for Michigan Legislature

Have until April 7 to extend state of emergency

By Dan Chalk | chalk@mdn.net | Mar 27, 2020

Lawmakers in the Michigan Legislature have until April 7 to determine whether to extend Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s state of emergency due to the coronavirus.

This week, Michigan hospitals braced for a surge of coronavirus cases, as the number of cases in the state on Wednesday rose to at least 2,294 and the number of deaths nearly doubled, from 24 to 43, according to the Associated Press. Most of the cases — 85% — were reported in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties, but more than half of the state’s 83 counties have been affected.

As of Thursday, there have been six confirmed cases in Midland. The state announced 564 new confirmed cases, bringing Michigan’s total to 2,856. There have been 60 deaths reported for the state, as of Thursday afternoon.https://tpc.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

State Rep. Annette Glenn told the Daily News that lawmakers are trying to strike a balance of doing their jobs while also curbing the spread of the coronavirus. The state’s lawmaking body last met on March 17, when it approved a $125 million supplemental budget package to fight the coronavirus.

The Legislature decided not to convene this week on its scheduled day of Wednesday, March 25, in light of Whitmer’s stay-at-home order that went into effect on Tuesday.

“The last day we were in, we were on the (meeting) floor for as short a time as possible, then we’d go back to our offices,” explained Glenn, who represents the 98th District, which which includes part of Midland and Bay counties.

“Then the staff would be through and would disinfect the entire room,” Glenn continued. “We tried to keep everybody healthy, keep everybody away from each other as much as possible and still legally conduct business.”

The Legislature’s next scheduled day to meet is Wednesday, April 1, and Glenn noted lawmakers have to vote on April 7 on whether to extend the 28-day state of emergency that Whitmer declared on March 10 when the first two coronavirus cases in the state were confirmed.

In the meantime, Glenn is doing a lot of calls and conference calls with constituents, businesses and other legislators.

“We are continually talking with constituents to find out what our priorities should be, and continually getting that information back to the leadership and back to the governor’s office,” Glenn said.

The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) is urging lawmakers to change state law to permit days out of school for this public health emergency to be counted as instructional days, stated state Superintendent Michael Rice in a March 20 news release.https://tpc.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

“Last year, the state legislature took similar action with the polar vortex Jan. 29 through Feb. 2, 2019,” Rice added. “Under the current conditions, the Legislature should make clear in law that the school year will not be extended into the summer.”

Schools have been closed since March 16.

“There are a lot of things to consider,” said Glenn, who is on the School Aid and Department of Education subcommittee in the House, among other committees. “We don’t yet know how may days (of instruction the schools will be closed).”

She said, just as she did last school year when school districts were closed for an extraordinarily high number of days due to weather, she will consult with the superintendents of the four school districts in the 98th District — Meridian Public Schools, Bullock Creek Schools, Midland Public Schools and Pinconning Area School District.

“Ultimately, it’s about what’s best for the children,” Glenn said. “I will get (the superintendents’) input and will strive to be their representative (in the Legislature).”

On Monday, Michael Sharrow, superintendent for Midland Public Schools, issued a communication to students and parents noting the district is canceling the third marking period, and still has graduation planned for June 2. However, the district is reviewing other options in the event a traditional graduation, or prom, are not possible this year.

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