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Detroit public schools will resume in-person learning in the fall

Superintendent Nikolai Vitti at a Detroit school.
Erin Einhorn
/
Chalkbeat

Public schools in Detroit will re-open for in-person learning in the fall, following an agreement with the city’s teachers’ union.   

Detroit Public Schools Community District announced on Monday that it had established terms with the Detroit Federation of Teachers which “recognizes the need to return” to the classroom for all school staff, including teachers. 

“This agreement signals that we are all on the same page to restart our reform efforts that had great momentum before the pandemic,” Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said in a statement. 

Teachers will receive $2,000 in hazard pay for returning to classrooms, and another $2,000 if they teach in-person and remote learners simultaneously in what is often called “blended learning.” Additionally, the agreement requires that a committee that represents both the union and the administration will review safety concerns and COVID-19 infection-related information and recommend updates to the district’s re-opening policies on a weekly basis.

As for now, DPSCD has committed to contracting with a nurse to be present at every school, daily temperature and symptom checks for all students and staff, as well as weekly COVID-19 tests for staff who remain unvaccinated. The district will offer personal protective equipment to any staff member who requests it, and provide hand sanitizer for use in classrooms and at stations around the school. 

The announcement from DPSCD encouraged families to contact their students’ schools to tour them to better understand the health safety protocols in place before making their decision. Students who wish to continue remote learning will have the option of taking part in a district-wide “Virtual School.” 

The return to district-wide in-person instruction marks a significant shift from the previous academic year, when teachers were given the option to continue to work remotely.

Vitti said at a virtual press conference in March that he heard parents and teachers express “frustration” over a lack of teachers who were willing to offer in-person instruction. He cited a survey conducted by the school district in December that found that 19,000 students would return to school if they could, noting that welcoming them back to classrooms would require 1,000 more teachers to voluntarily do the same. 

At a gathering of faith leaders calling for a return to in-person learning in May, Vitti noted that 75 percent of students in the district qualified as chronically absent, meaning that they had missed 18 or more days of school. 

At that same event, Detroit Federation of Teachers President Terrence Martin indicated that the union might be willing to change their stance for the upcoming school year.

“We want to move forward with caution, but with optimism that at some point next school year, we can return to face-to-face instruction,” Martin said.

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