DPSCD plan calls for average 3-4 hours of schoolwork a day

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Detroit Public Schools Community District launched its 10-week distance learning plan on Tuesday, calling for students to spend an average of three to four hours a day on schoolwork while the coronavirus pandemic keeps them out of classrooms.

The plan has teachers working Monday through Friday to engage students in lessons via telephone or virtually with online work and provides learning opportunities for students through the end of the school year in June.

Michigan school districts began submitting their distance learning plans to their local intermediate school districts for approval on April 8 after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on April 2 ordered all K-12 school buildings to close for the remainder of the school year, which typically ends in mid-June.

Nikolai Vitti, superintendent of the Detroit Public Schools Community District.

Plans must detail what mode of instruction will be used to reach student, how content will be structured and delivered, how learning will monitored and how students will be assessed during remote learning.

Under the new plan, starting on Monday, DPSCD students will work in core subjects such as English language arts, reading, math, social studies and science. There will be weekly opportunities for families to incorporate physical activity, wellness and arts enrichment online.

According to the plan, students in different grade levels have a different number of recommended live meetings and video engagements under the plan. On average, the district says students may spend between three to four hours a day engaged in recommended academic activities, according to the plan.

Student schedules and academic packets will be available for download this week. 

Printed packets for students who don't have internet access will be available next week starting on April 22. Students can obtain printed packets at the district’s 19 grab-and-go food resource locations and at an additional 31 school sites.

The district is spending $3.2 million on printed student packets. Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said if the district receives a commitment from the business community to fund tablets for families, which it expects to, it has budgeted $3 million for internet access. 

The district is working with the business community to ensure that all students have access to a device and internet, which should be sometime in May, Vitti said. 

"Right now we are still exploring whether the best strategy would be a tablet or laptop. We are looking to provide six months of internet access," Vitti said. "Beyond that, we would provide internet access for families who could not afford an extension. We have made positive progress on the goal and could be ready to announce more details by the end of this week."

This week, the district will hold two days of professional development for teachers.

Under the plan, students will receive a pass or a fail for second semester grade.

For high school students, transcripts will use the pass or fail code, which will allow students to gain course credit for promotion and/or graduation. It also allows GPAs to remain neutral as a result of the shutdown. 

A homework hotline, along with counselors and social workers, will be available through a special support hotline at 1-833-466-3978.

“Through the distance learning plan, we will provide academic support, as well as emotional and mental support to our students," Vitti said. "We will reach students and families where they are during this crisis. Some are ready to continue learning as if we were in school and others will find it difficult to complete the lessons because of real life challenges.”

Terrence Martin, president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers.

Terrence Martin, president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, said Tuesday that the union remains in talks with the district over what will be expected of teachers under the new distance learning plan.

"Nothing has been signed yet," Martin said in terms of a new letter of agreement.

The full plan can be found on the district’s website.