Detroit public schools considers going partially remote to slow COVID-19 spread

Posted at 8:08 PM, Nov 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-15 20:08:05-05

DETROIT (WXYZ) — COVID-19 cases are increasing at an alarming rate, causing health concerns and staffing problems.

7 Action News has learned Detroit Public Schools Community District sent an email out Monday morning asking school board members for their input on whether the district should switch to remote learning on Fridays for a period of time in response.

“Due to staff feedback the district is reviewing options to infuse more online learning days between now and January to address mental health breaks for staff and students, improve the cleanliness of schools, and acknowledge rising COVID rates,” Detroit Public Schools Community District said in a statement to WXYZ.

“Making sure we do what is necessary and securing the safety of all of our students and staff. That will require looking at an alternative scheduling model,” Detroit school board member Sherry Gay-Dagnogo said.

“The work environment is obviously stressed,” said Terrence Martin, the president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers.

Martin says the number of staff sick with COVID-19 increased 260% from 20 to 52 in just one week. The number of student cases in the district increased from 198 to 292. This also led to quarantines impacting 921 students and staff.

The result is there are not enough teachers and support staff to cover all tasks.

Martin says one day remote could allow for a deep cleaning every week.

“We’re hoping with one less day of face-to-face contact, that can help control the spread,” Martin said.

“We are working closely with the school district on that and we are analyzing their data and helping them make decisions,” said Robert Dunn, M.D., Interim Medical Director at Detroit Health Department.

Dunn says what is happening in the schools reflects what he is seeing happen around metro Detroit. Detroit is at risk of getting hit relatively hard because 42.5% of residents are vaccinated, much lower than the state average of 59%.

“We are concerned about that,” Dunn said. “We’ve seen even in parts of the state that had a relatively high vaccination rate, it doesn’t take a lot of new cases to overwhelm the health system and other parts of society.”

And that means schools. Families are divided on such a proposal.

“This at home learning, my kids can’t do it,” said Kyra Jacocks-Smith, the grandparent of a Renaissance High School student who says the answer is vaccination. “We need more people to get they shot. What do you need to study? Look at how many people died.”

“I would feel more comfortable if they do go back virtual,” said Sonja Malone, a mom of Renaissance High student.

7 Action News will continue to follow as the district decides how to proceed.

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