Mayor sends fire marshals to investigate Detroit school overcrowding

Posted at 6:35 PM, Sep 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-16 18:35:07-04

It is a story you saw only on 7 Action News. It started when one mom asked her daughter, “How was school today?”

“She said, ‘Mommy, there are 60 kids in my classroom.  And I thought she was exaggerating,” said Domonique Hister.

Hister went to see her daughter’s 6th grade classroom at Mackenzie Elementary-Middle School for herself.  She found 60 kids crammed in a room with barely a row between desks. She saw many overcrowded classrooms as she walked through the school.

“There were kids sitting on counters. There were kids sitting on crates. They were using garbage cans for desks,” said Hister. 

She took pictures and gave them to 7 Action News.

She had two concerns. One: Learning.

“When you have that many kids in a classroom there is no way you can teach,” said Hister.

Her other concern?  Safety.

“I really think his could be a fire hazard,” said Hister.

7 Action News called the Detroit Public Schools Community District and Mayor Mike Duggan’s office  The mayor’s office said it would send fire marshals to make sure the building is safe.

Domonique Hister says that is when something suspicious happened.  When fire marshals showed up at the school, before they got to her daughter’s classroom, her daughter said students were pulled out of class and furniture was moved by administrators.

“They’re trying to hide what they are doing, because they know they are wrong,” said Hister.

7 Action News asked the district about these allegations. We were told there was no cover-up. 

A school district spokesperson says it is a coincidence. More teachers need to be hired to create a long term solution, and the district is working to do that.

Administrators had been told to look for short term solutions to classroom over-crowding after our call came in the meantime. They may have just happened to be addressing the problem when marshals showed up.

The mayors office said fire marshals weren’t deceived. They saw the problem. They ordered the district to address overcrowded classrooms in the building.

“To have 60 kids in a classroom is outrageous,” said Terrence Martin, Executive Vice President of the Detroit Federation of Teachers.

Martin says a new union contract went into effect today, and under that deal, this is not allowed.  Classroom sizes have to be "conducive to learning.”

“Hopefully after these reports come out, something changes for our students right away,” said Martin.

The district is asking certified teachers looking for work to apply for openings to help it solve this problem.