Why doesn’t Michigan require social distancing in schools?

Distance is one of the primary ways to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. But the governor's school reopening plan stops short of requiring it.

When Governor Gretchen Whitmer unveiled her school reopening plans last week, many were discouraged to find she did not require schools to enact social distancing plans.

Social distancing, along with mask wearing and hand washing, is one of the primary ways the CDC suggests people prevent the spread of the virus. But the governor’s MI Safe Schools plan only recommends social distancing, but doesn’t require it.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

A weekday morning email roundup of Kalamazoo stories and events.

An article in Bridge Magazine suggests the decision not to require schools to force social distancing may have more to do with pragmatism than with medical best practices.

“We wanted to make sure we had some strict mitigation strategies,” said Kevin Polston, the superintendent of Godfrey-Lee Public Schools and part of the panel that drafted the governor’s plan.

“We wanted to make sure whatever we put in the plan was actually viable for schools,” he said.

A lot of it boils down to a lack of funding. Schools can’t afford to find more space for classrooms or hire more teachers. Both would be necessary to enforce the recommended six foot distance between students.

One idea that was considered was a hybrid of in-school classes and online learning. Students would go to school part time, allowing districts to stagger in-person classes.

That idea falls flat for many parents who need someplace to send their children while they are at work.

In the end, the guidelines are a compromise.

You can read the full story here.

Support local. Donate today to Kalamazoo's only locally owned and independent daily news organization.