Andrew Jameson / CC BY-SA

June 10, 2020; Crain’s Detroit Business

A survey of 600 Michigan parents reveals they are worried that both their children and their ability to work will suffer if schools don’t reopen in the fall. But many are also unsure about sending them back to schools that cannot ensure their safety.

Children in Michigan, as in the rest of the country, have been completing their school years remotely for the last three months.

“Many businesses and families are already under significant financial strain due to the COVID-19 crisis, and that is only going to worsen if parents aren’t comfortable and confident in sending their kids to school and going back to work,” Gilda Z. Jacobs, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy, said in a statement.

The Detroit Public Schools Community District has already released a draft plan for reopening. It calls for shorter school days, more remote learning for high school student, and making use of auditoriums and cafeterias as classrooms to meet social distancing guidelines. Another state panel is also working on statewide recommendations for safety, but concerned parents remain largely in the dark.

According to the survey, 88 percent of parents want schools to meet or exceed medical experts’ safety recommendations before classes reopen. Forty-four percent of the parents say their ability to pay bills depends upon schools reopening. Doing so, however, will take money from state and local budgets that are already stretched.

“Whether it be reduced class sizes that require more space and more teachers, additional busing routes to accommodate social distancing, sanitization supplies and procedures, or emotional support resources for students, these are all expenses that aren’t in existing school budgets,” Mark Greathead, superintendent of the Woodhaven-Brownstown School District, says. “We need Lansing to act quickly to accommodate the significant added costs we can expect as a result.”—Ruth McCambridge