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The State of Detroit Public Schools

The Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) has big plans underway while adjusting to the ever-changing climate during the COVID-19 pandemic as more students navigate in-person learning, amidst the rise of positive cases, coupled with the growing need for teachers inside the schools.

“It is time to come back to school; it is a point of frustration,” DPSCD Superintendent Nikolai P. Vitti said recently during a virtual meeting with the media.

Currently, about 500 teachers are working in person and that is not enough.

“We need about another 1,000 in person,” Vitti said, adding that “19,000 families are not receiving the in-person learning they requested.”

Vitti is prioritizing making in-person teaching more appealing through hazard pay.

“We certainly would be willing to increase the hazard pay if that’s what it took,” said Vitti.

Teachers who choose to work in person for the third quarter will receive $750 in hazard pay. All teachers and staff reporting to a building will have received a negative COVID-19 test.

Vitti and the new DPSCD Board Chair Angelique Peterson-Mayberry spoke during the over-hour long meeting on various topics including COVID Relief funding, attendance rates, and other district news.

Peterson-Mayberry said that one of the goals is to make sure the district engages and re-engages a lot of its stakeholders.

“(We are) really excited about the work we have done thus far,” she said during the meeting.

Vitti said during the meeting that while the request for in-person teachers is high, they want to go about it safely and there more than likely will be a pause for in-person learning after spring break March 29 – April 2.

“Because of the rising infection rate, and even beyond that, we will likely move to online learning the week after spring break and give our employees and students time to isolate,” Vitti said. “Our plan is to resume in-person learning on the 12th.”

The school district, once back in session, plans to also implement random COVID-19 testing through saliva samples, which Vitti called “less intrusive” than the nasal test for students and teachers. This, Vitti explained, is due to increases in COVID-19 infection rates happening throughout Detroit and Michigan.

Vitti said that as the cases are continuing to rise, about 1,000 teachers have been vaccinated, but he feels that number is even higher.

“If we have about 6,000 employees we’re looking at 40-50% employees vaccinated,” he said of measuring those numbers against city vaccination rates.

Vitti said that some teachers who might have gotten vaccinated are “uncomfortable” telling the school district because they believe that will be criteria used to make them return to work in person.

“It is a trust issue,” Vitti said. “People also feel it is a private, personal, medical issue — we do not have to be told.”

Vitti also addressed chronic absenteeism and said that a portion of DPSCD students have not attended remote or in-person learning options.

He said that summer school options for the different grade levels might be the answer to help them catch up with learning loss. Having teachers help out might be a particular challenge, too, because some employees are “tired and burned out” he said, adding that the school district needs partners to help bridge the gap.

Vitti also spoke about how the DPSCD is finalizing how they will use the funding they received from the CARES Act, which he said is about time for the predominately Black school district that does not receive the same level of funding as its suburban counterparts.

“It’s the first time I can say that the federal government has actually moved forward with the funding formula that is equitable,” Vitti said.

For more information visit detroitk12.org.

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