The complexities of reopening school in Detroit

July 15, 2020, 9:12 AM

Back-to-school in Detroit for optional summer learning has already been marred in controversy, setting up for an even more tense return in fall. 

The first two days of in-person classes have been met with protests that in some cases blocked students from entering buildings. A civil rights attorney reportedly plans to on Wednesday file for an injunction to keep school buildings closed to students, likening the district's decision to reopen to "genocide." 

An NBC News story conveys the complexities of the reopening in a city hard hit by coronavirus through interviews with people on all sides of the issue.

District superintendent Nikolai Vitti has said schools need to reopen. A philanthropic gift of computers that was to facilitate remote learning has been delivered to only highschoolers thus far.

Vitti said the city’s children, the vast majority of whom are classified as economically disadvantaged by the state and have test scores showing they’re far behind their peers academically, can’t afford to miss much more school.

“Our children need us,” he said. “People have to get off the sidelines and get on the field and figure out what the new normal looks like with school under COVID-19.”

Parents with kids attending in-person summer classes, meanwhile, have mixed feelings. One quoted in the story sees the return to school as an inevitability, while another was more concerned. 

Mom Kim Martin, who is 50 and has diabetes, lost two relatives to COVID. Her son, Allyn, has asthma.

But Allyn needs to pass an English class so he can advance to high school, and online classes aren’t an option because he has no computer.

The district says precautions like temperature checks, social distancing, and masks are in place. Vitti shared an image of kids with desks spread apart Monday. He's said there will be no more than 15 students to a class.

But issues remain. Tempertature screenings miss cases, as about a third of Covid-infected people are believed to be asymptomatic. Students are not being tested for the virus.

Then there's the parts of school that take place outside the classroom. Chalkbeat quotes school bus driver Kenshawn Siebert, who said he reported for work Monday to find no masks or hand sanitizer.

Siebert, who has driven a school bus for the city for five years, told NBC News that he was given no training for how to keep children safe on his bus. He was not tested for the virus. And after losing four friends to COVID-19 in the last few months, he said he refused to drive his route Monday and doesn’t plan to go back.

Some teachers and staff, meanwhile, are also fearful. They expressed their concerns on social media and at a virtual school board meeting Tuesday night, covered by Fox 2. They say they've been told those who don't wish to return to class might consider resigning. They also say they've been told they have to use their sick days for periods of quarantine. 


Covid fears spur Detroit school bus blockage on 2nd day of summer school, July 14

Read more:  NBC News

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