Detroit district pausing in-person instruction for one week after spring break to prevent COVID spread

The Detroit Public Schools Community District will pause in-person instruction for one week after spring break to prevent COVID-19 spread. File photo is from the first day of school in the district. (Valaurian Waller/Bridge Detroit)

The Detroit school district has decided it will pause in-person instruction next week to prevent the spread of COVID-19 after spring break.

“This is to allow employees and students a week of social isolation after spring break to limit the spread,” a note on the district’s web site said Tuesday.

The decision in the Detroit Public Schools Community District comes as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Michigan and as school district leaders weigh whether they can continue holding face-to-face classes. Many Michigan schools began reopening in recent weeks under pressure from state officials. Bridge Michigan reported Tuesday that there were 241 confirmed cases of COVID outbreaks in state K-12 schools as of March 25. That was up from 201 the previous week. An outbreak occurs when there are two or more related positive cases in a school.

The district is on spring break this week. The move to keep students home next week will affect students who were taking classes in a classroom with a teacher as well as students attending learning centers located in each school building. The centers give students an opportunity to take all of their classes online, but in a room supervised by a staff member.

Detroit Superintendent Nikolai Vitti told reporters last week that the district was considering the pause.

“We know extended families will be visited. We know churches will be open,” Vitti said at the time. “We are concerned about the infection rate.”

In the note on the web site, district officials said they don’t anticipate another district shutdown.

They said the introduction of vaccinations, mitigation and safety measures, and the ability to identify isolated cases and quarantine students and staff “mean that we should expect that schools remain open, even if the infection rate in the community is more elevated than previous months.”

The district said it would continue to consult with public health experts and make adjustments if necessary.

Earlier in the day Tuesday, the city of Detroit cited rising COVID-19 cases in issuing an order barring in-person government meetings. The order noted that the positivity rate in the city was 7% the week of March 14 to March 20. That’s up from 3.2% the week of Feb. 7 to Feb. 13.

During the week of April 5, those who had spent time learning in buildings will learn online. They will return to buildings April 12.

Employees will be required to receive a negative COVID-19 test before returning to buildings. The district also plans to  launch random COVID-19 saliva testing for students the week of April 12.

About 9,000 students have returned to attend the learning centers and in-person instruction since the district reopened buildings in February and March. Only about 1,000 students are receiving full-time, in-person instruction. The rest are either attending the learning centers full time or receiving a mix of in-person instruction and online classes.

The district enrolls 49,000 students.

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