by Scott McClallen
The state’s largest school district has struck a deal with the Detroit Federation of Teachers (DFT) union to return 51,000 students to school safely.
The four-page agreement lays out safety precautions for face-to-face instruction at the Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD), including a 20-person cap on classes and desks separated by six feet.
“We are living in difficult times. It is our hope that through this agreement we can now collectively own the reopening of our schools to best serve our children and families while ensuring the safety of our employees,” DPSCD Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti said in a statement.
“The need to serve our children never stops. Even in a pandemic, we need to find ways to best serve and support our children. For some of our families and students, this means face to face instruction and for others it is online learning. This agreement signals we will work together to provide equitable education opportunities for our children and families.”
A joint Labor-Management Committee on Schools Reopening will meet weekly to review reopening issues and review COVID-19 related data to consider any changes.
The DFT can request walkthroughs with DPSCD officials to ensure safety compliance, and upon violation of those rules, the principal must “immediately” fix the problem.
Teachers can earn $750 per quarter in “hazard pay” for working face-to-face – granting up to a $3,000 bonus for working in-person the entire school year.
Teachers have an option to teach online or face-to-face, and students have the option to attend in-person or virtual instruction.
DPSCD says that nearly all schools will offer some face-to-face instruction to accommodate teachers and families with that preference.
The American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) has urged local governments to reopen schools.
Long periods away from school, the AAP says, interrupt children’s support services and often result in social isolation. These factors make it “difficult for schools to identify and address important learning deficits as well as child and adolescent physical or sexual abuse, substance use, depression, and suicidal ideation,” the academy adds. “This, in turn, places children and adolescents at considerable risk.”
All schools will also be open as learning centers.
The safety guidelines include:
- Employee COVID-19 testing.
- Daily symptom and temperature checks for students and staff.
- Required use and distribution of masks for students, teachers, and staff. Sanitizing wipes and sprays, face shields, gowns and gloves will be given to teachers and staff.
- Deep cleaning of classrooms and buildings
- Limiting access to schools by the public as well as providing isolation areas for those who feel ill.
“As a board, we all value the safety of our students, teachers and staff,” DPSCD Board of Education Chair Dr. Iris Taylor said in a statement.
“We believe our protocols and reopening plan will create a safe environment for learning during this unprecedented time in public education and we have committed to frequent reviews of the reopening plan as COVID-19 has proven to be unpredictable.”
DPSCD and Vitti held more than 20 engagement sessions with about 25,000 stakeholders to discuss the reopening plan and answer questions and concerns.
The first day of school is Sept. 8.
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Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.