Detroit school district to reopen learning centers Feb. 24

The Detroit News

The Detroit Public Schools Community District is slated to transition to some in-person instruction by reopening its learning centers on Feb. 24, officials announced Monday.

The decision was based on "the city’s positive (COVID-19) infection rate remaining at the current 5% level or below," the district said in a statement.

In November, Michigan's largest school district temporarily halted in-person classes and moved to online learning amid rising COVID-19 cases in Detroit.

Since then, there's been "a nearly 12 percentage point decrease in attendance among students who were attending some form of in person learning after its suspension prior in mid-November," according to the district release.

“Through our home visits and outreach to families and students, we know too many families and students are struggling with schools closed. The challenges range from childcare for working families, access to food, and the need for direct support with learning,” Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said.

“Our survey data among families demonstrate a near doubling of the demand for in person learning since the late fall to 40-50%. We will always use data and science to protect our students and employees in this pandemic. With the positive infection rate in the city now at a consistent 5% we can begin the process of providing families with what they need through the reopening of Learning Centers. At the same time, we will continue to respect our families’ decision to keep their students home for online learning.”

With the centers reopening, students can eat breakfast and lunch, log in to online learning as well as receive support from school personnel including administrators, educational aides and substitute teachers, the district said.

Meanwhile, the district "is committed to resuming in person learning with teachers once the city’s positive infection rate is solidly below 5%," officials said Monday. Once that level is reached, per an agreement with the Detroit Federation of Teachers for the current academic year, teachers can opt to return to the classroom. Employees are required to retest for COVID before returning to work.

"The hope is that this can begin by the early to mid-March," the district's release said. "This will provide enough time for all returning teachers to be retested whether they received the vaccine or not."

The planned reopening of the Detroit district's learning centers came the same day in-person dining at Michigan restaurants resumed after more than two months, with a 25% capacity limit.

In recent weeks, Michigan has reported fewer new COVID-19 cases per population than neighboring states that have weaker restrictions in place, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Michigan added 2,066 new cases of the coronavirus and eight deaths on Monday, including cases from Sunday. The latest figures bring the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases to 561,307 and deaths to 14,609, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.

The state recorded 12,535 new cases and 487 deaths last week, compared with 16,452 new cases and 430 deaths the previous week.

At the end of November, the state established the weekly record of 50,892 cases. The weekly record of 808 deaths was recorded in mid-December.

Data on hospitalizations, testing and new cases all trended in hopeful directions last week as the state appears to be moving past a second wave that hit in late November. The percentage of COVID-19 tests bringing positive results dropped to 6.2%, down from 6.7% the week before.