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Heard on MichMash

Michigan School Closures Leave Parents Scrambling

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Image credit: Jake Neher/WDET

Schools offer families more than just education. Families now look for new sources of childcare and even food.

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The coronavirus has been spreading across the United States, with 53 confirmed cases in Michigan alone as of Monday. Last week, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced that every K-12 school in the state would close beginning Monday, March 16 until at least April 6.

This led to schools, parents and students with a major question: Now what?

Click on the player above to hear MichMash talk about what this will mean for families as they hope to not lose all the resources that schools provide their kids.

Empty classroom.Laura Herberg/WDET
Laura Herberg/WDET

Empty classroom.

There are multiple additional services that kids receive from schools, said Joann Hoganson, Director of Community Wellness for the Kent County Health Department, before Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced that all schools across the state would be shut down starting March 16 until April 6 at the earliest. At the time, Kent County planned to keep their kids in school.

Kids will receive good food, they will be in a safe environment, they will have teachers watching out for them,” Hoganson said.

Sometimes when schools cancel, children are left unattended or they’re brought to grandparent’s house. which the grandparents might be very vulnerable to COVID-19, and it could cause serious health problems in the caretakers even though the child is relatively well,” she said.

A huge service that schools offer is food. Schools throughout Michigan offer their students lunch, breakfast, and in some cases dinner. For some kids, the most food they get is through their school.

Schools are currently working to ensure their kids are fed, but it was a struggle to plan a massive food handout so quickly, given the regulations put on the school lunch program by the federal government.

I know this will be a tough time, but we’re doing this to keep the most people we can safe.” — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

As of Monday, school districts across Michigan have arranged pickups for free lunches and breakfasts for their students.

There’s also the matter of childcare. Who will watch the kids for parents that still have to go in to work, or parents who are working from home?

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer discussing the state's response to the spread of coronavirus during a press conference.Michigan Governor's Office
Michigan Governor’s Office

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer discussing the state’s response to the spread of coronavirus during a press conference.

On top of everything, we still don’t know if students will have to go late into the school year to make up the days, if testing needs to be rescheduled, or a host of other concerns related to the actual education of students.

When she announced the move, Whitmer said that shutting down the schools wasn’t a decision she took lightly.

This is a necessary step to protect our kids, our families, and our overall public health,” Whitmer said.

I know this will be a tough time, but we’re doing this to keep the most people we can safe,” she continued.

I urge everyone to make smart choices during this time and to do everything they can to protect themselves and their families.”


Michigan’s State Emergency Operations Center is coordinating state-government resources and the response to the coronavirus spread. It has shared the following tips:

  •  Always cover coughs or sneezes with a tissue or sleeve.
  • Stay home if you are sick and advise others to do the same.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, if soap and warm water are not available.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces (computers, keyboards, desks, etc.).
  • It’s not too late to get your flu shot! While the influenza vaccine does not protect against COVID-19 infection, it can help keep you healthy during the flu season.
  • For statewide and national information on the virus, visit Michigan.gov/Coronavirus or CDC.gov/Coronavirus.

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Jake Neher, Producer, Detroit Today

Jake Neher is a producer and reporter for Detroit Today. He has formerly reported on the Michigan legislature.

Jake.Neher@wdet.org Follow @GJNeher

Cheyna Roth, Reporter

Cheyna has interned with Michigan Radio and freelanced for WKAR public radio in Lansing. She’s also done some online freelancing and worked on documentary films.

CRoth@mlive.com Follow @Cheyna_R


This post is a part of MichMash.

Each week, WDET's Jake Neher and Michigan Public Radio's Cheyna Roth un-jumble Michigan issues and talk about how statewide news stories affect you. 

This post is a part of Coronavirus in Michigan.

101.9 WDET, Detroit’s NPR Station, is committed to providing accurate, up-to-date information on coronavirus, and it's related illness COVID-19, in Michigan. 

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