Detroit’s school district hopes to return in late January

Students and educators from the Detroit district are unlikely to return to personal learning until the end of January, Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said during a school board meeting on Tuesday.

The update reflects the district’s temporary transition to online learning in light of the increase in omicron-supported COVID cases in Detroit and across the state. The number of cases is still growing.

The neighborhood is tentatively aiming to return to classrooms by January 24 or January 31, depending on whether the city returns to a 10-20% infection rate, Vitti said. The COVID positivity rate in the city was 37.6% on January 6.

“We hope that in the next few days and weeks it will continue to a point that is easier for us to reopen schools,” Vitti said during a school board meeting on Tuesday.

Returning to personal learning will require mandatory testing of students at COVID as well as staff testing. Student consent forms for weekly saliva testing must be submitted by January 31. If families do not complete the permit forms before or by this date, their students will be transferred to a virtual school in the district.

The acceptance rate for testing in the entire district is 74%. The district will give families one to two weeks after the January 31 deadline to complete the consent form before students are officially moved to a virtual school, Vitti added.

Students who may provide medical or religious reasons may be exempted from weekly testing.

Detroit continues to have low traffic

Student participation in recent days of online learning has dropped below the 75% participation rate required by Michigan. Vitti said the district has seen 58%, 62% and 70% student participation in online education in the past three days. If districts fall below 75%, they may lose part of their state aid.

If this pattern continues, Vitti added, any future snow days or emergency deadlines will become an online learning day.

“The state gives us six days, we’ve run out,” Vitti said. “It’s not something I really want to do, it’s something we have to do.”

Classes can be extended for individual schools that have more than six days off.

“We can’t stay in this online space anymore,” Vitti said.

A recent analysis of nationwide testing data from Michigan State University’s Education Policy Innovation Collaboration revealed that Michigan students who had learned distance learning most of the past school year had learned less than those who had learned in person.

The school district is also preparing to update its quarantine and contact monitoring requirements to reflect the new recommendations of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. On Monday, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced that it had changed its isolation guidelines in K-12 schools to match the CDC.

Under the new guidelines, the district’s quarantine period for asymptomatic students and staff will be reduced to five days, Vitti said. Currently, the district’s policy requires that unvaccinated students be isolated for 7-10 days.

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