It’s a sticky Wednesday afternoon in June but nearly 100 educational professionals are crammed into three workgroups- virtually that is. All this, in participation with the Michigan Department of Education’s Return to School Work Groups, to create guidance and recommendations for reopening Michigan schools in fall 2020.

At Michigan’s Children, in partnership with the Michigan Association of Community and Adult Education (MACAE), we have been able to give feedback as a part of the working groups- split into three subgroups representing Rural, Suburban, and Urban Schools. Each group is tasked with identifying the needs and challenges of student populations in those subcategories. Final recommendations are expected to be submitted on July 1.

This has been a valuable and rewarding experience to articulate the needs of some of the most vulnerable and marginalized populations in our state- children, youth, and students of color in K-12 and adult education.

Importantly, as many of these conversations do, many of the challenges and barriers around equity, flexibility in policy, funding, social-emotional learning, safety are themes that Michigan’s Children has been articulating for a long time. While the conversations have a long way to go to create systemic remedies for some of these challenges, I am optimistic that now is the opportune moment to begin to have these conversations with a wider, more engaged group of stakeholders.

I am inspired by so many educational and nonprofit professionals who have been engaged with these discussions. And while the impact of COVID-19 is highlighting the disparity in our educational system, we cannot forget the long-term work that needs to be done around these populations and in these areas. If we want to create more stable funding, ensure equity for all children, craft policies that empower and support families, and provide social-emotional tools, we have to stay invested.

As each workgroup continues to make recommendations to the Governor’s Office and the MDE Superintendent’s Office, Michigan’s Children will continue to do its work. Through this long, hot summer- virtually of course.

Patrick Brown is an Outreach Associate for Michigan’s Children, in partnership with the Michigan Association of Community and Adult Education