New council tasked with addressing learning loss at Michigan schools

NILES, Mich. -- Two Berrien County representatives have been chosen to be part of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s new Student Recovery Council aimed at helping kids get back up to speed who have suffered learning loss due to the pandemic.

Berrien County Health Officer Nicki Britten will advise from a local, public health perspective and State Rep. Brad Paquette (MI-78th District), a former educator.

While they’ll ultimately provide recommendations to Gov. Whitmer, it’s the input of local districts and parents that matters most, as they’ll have to carry the burden.

“I’ve had a lot of people making decisions about my classroom and they’ve never even been in it, a lot of the best decisions around this should be made at the local level,” said Rep. Paquette.

The newly appointed council consists of 29 members representing regions across Michigan and is tasked with developing systems to address learning loss from being out of the classroom, providing resources to promote mental and physical health and potentially even extending the school year.

“The state superintendent described maybe going to 200 days a year for extending the calendar and some districts balk at that and others will welcome it,” said Rep. Paquette. “I think it really comes down to that we do education different in every classroom.”

Despite Gov. Whitmer’s plans for all districts to return fully to in-person classes by March 1, how exactly to provide these resources to help struggling students is up in the air as negotiations are still underway between the House GOP and Whitmer on an economic recovery package – which would allocate some funding to support schools.

So as districts wait for more funding, some are going ahead and developing their own plans to aid students.

“We’re exploring options for summer school programs, enrichment opportunities to get kids a jumpstart – say you’re a kid who likes math but not quite ready for algebra,” said Superintendent Dave Ehlers, Coloma Community Schools.

But in order to ask teachers and students to sacrifice more of their time, the state’s funding is crucial.

“Longer school days probably aren’t going to help, getting kids here in the summer is always a question,” said Ehlers. “If they’re going to do something like extending the days, I’ll be honest I doubt very many of my teaching staff are going to work more for the same pay, they’re going to have to find funding for that.”

To view Gov. Whitmer's executive order, click here

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