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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announces closure of Michigan schools for remainder of 2019-20, stipulates K-12 sports are suspended ‘while state of emergency … is in effect’

By: MATTHEW B. MOWERY, April 2, 2020, 10:54 am

As had been expected, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced on Thursday that all Michigan K-12 schools would be closed for the remainder of the 2019-20 academic school year to hinder the further spread of COVID-19.

The next question is what that means for high school sports.

In her executive order, it stated “K-12 school sports activities and other in-person extracurricular school activities are suspended while any state of emergency or state of disaster prompted by COVID-19 is in effect. This section … applies to all public, nonpublic and boarding schools in the state.”

Gov. Whitmer asked legislative leaders in the Michigan house and senate on Wednesday to extend the current state of emergency 70 days. By state law, the duration of a state of emergency can only last 28 days, unless extended by the legislature.

UPDATE (12:10 p.m. Thursday, April 2): The MHSAA said it will announce no later than Friday (April 3) the status of the winter and spring sports seasons.

MHSAA executive director Mark Uyl will be on STATE CHAMPS! LIVE at 2 p.m. Friday (he was originally scheduled to be on Thursday’s show, but it was pushed back by circumstances), when he will hopefully be able to give more clarity to the situation.

“We’re reviewing the governor’s announcement, asking questions and will make a statement as we continue to digest this order,” Uyl said in a release Thursday.

Uyl has said in the past that it would be hard for school sports to continue past the closure of schools, but as recently as a radio interview yesterday said it wasn’t a given. 

“If the governor makes a determination to close schools for the rest of the year … because we are school athletics and we are an extension of the classroom, it’s awfully tough to continue to continue to keep classroom-based education going when kids can’t be in classrooms,” Uyl said during an appearance on the statewide “Huge Show” on Wednesday. “Does that automatically mean that if school is canceled through the rest of the year that we’re automatically going to be canceling all sport activities at that same time? Not necessarily. We are going to reach out and we’re going to get some input from our membership and we’re going to see what schools want. … 

“Certainly if schools are going to be closed down because it’s unsafe and that is going to be continuing into the summer, our decision is easy. We’re going to stay right there in lockstep. If schools are closed and social distancing or the quarantine is lifted sometime in June, I’m telling you what, there’s going to be an awful lot of people that would love to reengage in some activity. If that’s able to happen in June or July, we would have to figure out what our right place and our right role would be. We’re waiting like everybody else to see what the governor says.”

Unless it’s extending into the summer, it seems unlikely that any remainder of the high school season — which was initially put on ‘pause’ on March 13 — will ever be ‘unpaused.’

But health concerns come first.

“As a parent, I understand the challenge closing schools creates for parents and guardians across the state, which is why we are setting guidelines for schools to continue remote learning and ensuring parents have resources to continue their children’s education from the safety of their homes,” Whitmer said in a statement. “There is no video chat or homework packet that can replace the value of a highly trained, experienced teacher working with students in a classroom, but we must continue to provide equitable educational opportunities for students during this public health crisis.”