GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Some $60 million in federal CARES Act dollars will be sent to Michigan school districts “that have been hit most significantly by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says.
The money “will help address the digital divide that has served as a barrier to remote learning for students and educators across the state,” Whitmer announced at a Wednesday afternoon briefing.
Only districts in which economically disadvantaged students make up more than half of the total student population will be eligible for the funds. The cash, which comes through the Governor’s Education Emergency Relief Fund, will be distributed based on how many economically disadvantaged, special education or English language learning students each district has.
“We developed this formula to help schools and students and educators who are going to struggle the most,” Whitmer said.
Funding estimates provided by the governor’s office to WJMN out of Marquette show Detroit Public Schools Community District is getting the largest share of the cash by far with more than $4.7 million.
Dearborn City School District will get more than $2.2 million and Grand Rapids Public Schools will get about $1.5 million. The Lansing and Kalamazoo public school districts are each getting more than $1 million.
The money may be used to pay to implement health and safety protocols, for the technology to help kids connect with teachers remotely, to help mitigate learning loss caused by extended time outside the classroom and to provide child care.
An additional $5.4 million will go to other education programs, statewide mental health programs, public TV learning programs, professional development for teachers and early outreach programs for babies and toddlers.
Whitmer, a Democrat, said the funding is the product of a deal between her office and Republican leaders in the state Legislature. She made the announcement at a Wednesday briefing. She was joined by Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive, state Sen. Winnie Brinks, D-Grand Rapids, Rep. Sheryl Kennedy, D-Davison, and Grand Rapids Public Schools Superintendent Leadriane Roby.
With some K-12 schools already open for the fall semester, all eyes are on the quality of education being provided and whether districts will be able to keep the coronavirus under control among student populations. Each district across the state has designed plans for containing the virus, many offering both in-person and online learning.
In some other states, there have been outbreaks linked to schools.
“I think we can learn from others mistakes, frankly,” Whitmer told News 8 in a video call Tuesday. “This is still a novel virus, still a virus for which there is no vaccine and there’s no cure. We know that if we drop our guard and start congregating without mask wearing and observing strict protocols that we increase the risk that we are going to spread COVID-19. We also know that in different regions of the state, we have different numbers and that’s why we’ve promulgated guidelines so that district can make informed decisions and have the protocols they need to stay safe. And yet there’s no guarantee that we’ll be without some outbreak somewhere. I mean, as we watch what’s happening around the country, it’s likely.”
THE STATE OF THE OUTBREAK IN MICHIGAN
Coronavirus has sickened 94,278 people in Michigan since March and 6,349 deaths have been linked to it.
Those numbers include the latest daily figures released by the state Wednesday, which added nine deaths to the tally and 616 confirmed cases.
One of the nine most recent deaths was in Ottawa County, which has now seen a total of 55 fatalities. It has had 1,848 confirmed cases since the start of the outbreak.
Kent County added 32 additional cases for a total of 7,182. The number of deaths remained unchanged at 55.
In Wayne County, where the virus has hit hardest, there was one more death for a total of 2,712 and 123 additional cases confirmed for a total of 27,912 since the outbreak’s beginning. Oakland County has had 13,318 confirmed cases (110 more than the previous day) and 1,101 deaths (no change). Macomb County has had 11,203 cases (133 more) and 918 deaths (no change).
Statewide, hospitalizations remain low, as do the number of deaths each day.
On Tuesday, labs in Michigan tested 32,933 samples for coronavirus and 978 came back positive. The number of positive tests does not equal the number of new cases because people may be tested more than once, though the state says its system allowed a person to be counted as only one case regardless of the number of tests.
The percentage of positive tests for the day was 2.97%. State health officials would like to see the rate consistently below 3%.
“When you’re testing enough and only a small percent of those tests are coming back positive, again, under 3%, that’s a really good sign that the spread of the disease is under control,” Dr. Khaldun, the chief medical executive, said during Wednesday’s briefing.
The state is now routinely running more than 28,000 coronavirus tests daily. That works out to more than 2% of Michigan’s population weekly, which was the state’s goal.
Khaldun said health departments are still tracking outbreaks liked to nursing homes, social gatherings, offices, agriculture and food processing businesses, and manufacturing.
“Please, everyone, do not think that you are somehow going to outsmart this virus. If you try to sneak and you have large gatherings and you’re not wearing your masks and you’re not maintaining physical distance, there’s a good chance that you’re going to come into contact with someone who has the disease. And there’s a chance that you can get the disease, and you can get it and you can pass it on to others,” Khaldun said. “And if you’re lucky, you get to keep your life and you don’t die. But even if you live, there are many people who have long-term health consequences — problems with their brain or their heart or their lungs. And there are still some consequences that we’re still trying to understand. This is not something that everyone is just bouncing back from quickly.”
She urged everyone to “be vigilant” and keep following health safety protocols and to help contact tracers working to identify and contain outbreaks.
The state also wants people with symptoms or who have been exposed to someone with the virus to get tested. With help from the Michigan National Guard, Ottawa County is facilitating a few free testing events in the coming days:
3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday
Holland Middle School, 373 E. 24th St., Holland, MI 49423
8 a.m. to noon Saturday
Grand Haven Community Center
Columbus Avenue and N. 5th Street. Parking Lot, Grand Haven, MI 49417 (Registration)
422 Fulton Ave., Grand Haven, MI 49417 (Testing)
4 p.m. to 8 pm. Aug. 24
Fellowship Reformed Church
6610 36th Ave., Hudsonville, MI 49426
3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Aug. 26
Holland Longfellow School
32 E. 24th St., Holland, MI 49423
8 a.m. to noon Aug. 29
Holland Middle School
373 E. 24th St., Holland, MI 49423