Detroit district confirms that Osborn staffer with COVID-19 wasn’t at training sessions last week

The Osborn High School staff member who has tested positive for the new coronavirus didn’t attend professional development sessions held last week by the Detroit district, officials said.

That answers a question teachers across the district have been asking since Saturday night, when Superintendent Nikolai Vitti notified staff that an Osborn teacher had tested positive and others at the school have exhibited symptoms.

Vitti has advised those in the Osborn learning community to self-quarantine for 14 days.

The confirmation that the staff member didn’t attend the training sessions may only partly resolve concerns raised by the district’s teaching staff, since others in the Osborn building say they have symptoms of the virus and may have been in those sessions. The sessions were held in multiple buildings.

The district has described the employee as a staff member, though the city’s chief medical director described the person as a faculty member in a statement Saturday night.

Vitti, in a statement Sunday, said “the title of the individual may compromise the person’s identity.

“Unfortunately, based on the spread of the virus, medically we know this will not be the first or last incidence. As more incidences surface, it will be difficult to pinpoint who had direct contact with anyone and everyone who had contact with someone who had contact with someone else,” Vitti said.

“This is why social distancing is the best practice right now for everyone. Several Osborn employees have already expressed showing symptoms of the virus. This is another reason why the focus on just one individual may not be helpful.”

Benjamin Royal, a member of a vocal caucus within the Detroit Federation of Teachers that has been critical about the response to COVID-19, said he’s hearing teachers express concerns about that training and potential exposure. He believes local, state, and federal governments have been too slow to respond and worries about what’s next.

“Right now, the city, the state, the country is not prepared for what’s coming,” Royal said.

The head of the teachers union declined to comment.

One district employee, an elementary special education teacher, said she’s worried because she attended a professional development session Tuesday at Renaissance High School with hundreds of other staff from across the district. She doesn’t know if any staff from Osborn were at that session. The teacher, who asked that name not be used because she’s afraid of possible repercussions for speaking out, said she cares for an elderly parent with health problems.

“I’m concerned about my mom,” she said.