DETROIT (WXYZ) — Detroit Public Schools Community District is kicking off the new year with a widespread COVID testing policy.
Superintended Dr. Vitti announced that all in-person, virtual learning will be canceled till Wednesday the 5th of January.
This will allow all the staff members within the district to get tested before plans to reconvene school takes off amidst the new surge.
A total of 10 locations have been designated by the DPSD for its members to get tested, a policy the education staff says is necessary.
"I think it’s the safest thing we can do right now just to know where everybody is at and what everybody's status is," said Jessica Champan, a DPSCD teacher.
"I don’t think they had another choice. This is the only thing we can do as this is a crisis," said William Johnson a DPSCD substitute teacher.
Lakia Wilson-Lumpkins from Detroit Federations of Teachers says the union also welcomes the move.
"In Detroit Public Schools Community District our members are required to test weekly anyway," said Lakia Wilson-Lumpkins, Executive Vice President Detroit Federations of Teachers.
In a statement issued to 7 Action News, Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitt says “the city is facing an all-time high infection rate of 36%. If schools open as planned, it is inevitable that we will face a high number of positive cases that will lead to high rates of quarantining and staff shortages, which will disrupt school operations.”
Staff members are being tested at no cost to give the district an idea of how safe it would be to welcome students back to the classrooms.
The district plans to study the staff infection rate on Wednesday to determine if schools can reconvene from Thursday.
"With approximately 8,000 employees, to take the necessary steps to ensure that almost 50,000 students and our staff are protected," said Sherry Gay-Dagnogo, Detroit Public Schools Community District Board Member.
Post holidays, the district is also encouraging all its students to get COVID tested for free as at the 10 sites.
"I think it will be helpful if we are all supposed to be working towards not only our safety but the safety of our peers or co-workers etc," said Sherry Gay-Dagnogo, Detroit Public Schools Community District Board Member.
And that’s why starting from February 18th the district has implemented a mandatory employee vaccination policy.
"Roughly about 20% of our membership is not vaccinated and we know many many of our students are not vaccinated, there are 2 exemptions that members are able to choose from right now, as a union we are working with the district, that those who are vaccinated, suffer no penalty," said Lakia Wilson-Lumpkins, Executive Vice President Detroit Federations of Teachers.
Meanwhile, in a statement issued to 7 Action News, the district’s Superintended, Dr. Nikolai Vitti says “all students will be required to COVID test or they will be required to attend the virtual school effective January 31st, which is the first day of the second semester. A student vaccine mandate is likely by the first day of school next year."
Responding to the statement Sherry Gay-Dagnogo says a student vaccine mandate will most likely be explored for fall 2022. But details still need to be worked out.