Mysterious illness at Detroit elementary school sickens students, prompts school closure

A child has his heartbeat monitored.
Marcus Garvey Academy in Detroit is closed until Monday after an increase in student illnesses that health officials are now investigating. (ljubaphoto / Getty Images)

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news organization covering public education in communities across America. Sign up for Chalkbeat Detroit’s free daily newsletter to keep up with the city’s public school system and Michigan education policy.  

Flu-like illnesses among a number of students at Marcus Garvey Academy prompted school administrators to shut down the school until Monday so the building can be cleaned and parents can monitor their children’s symptoms.

A district official said one student at the school, a kindergartener, has died. But it’s unclear whether the death is connected to the mysterious illness.

“At this time, the medical examiner has not determined the cause of death,” Chrystal Wilson, a spokeswoman for the Detroit Public Schools Community District, said in a statement.

Wilson said that this week, “the school has experienced an unusually high rate of flu-like symptoms including student fevers, and vomiting, namely at the early grade levels.

“We have been actively communicating with the Detroit Health Department about these cases and we have mutually agreed that the best course of action right now is to close the school until Monday,” Wilson said.

The health department said in a news release Wednesday night that its officials are working closely with DPSCD and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services “to monitor and trace all reported illnesses among students at that location.

“We do not yet have confirmation on the cause of the illness, and will share that information with Detroiters once that information has been confirmed,” the health department’s statement said.

The department urged parents of children ages 4-7 to seek medical care promptly if their child experiences fever, headache, lethargy, nausea/vomiting, or abdominal pain.

Lori Higgins is the bureau chief for Chalkbeat Detroit. You can reach her at lhiggins@chalkbeat.org.

The Latest

‘Did you say segregation ended?’ My student’s question speaks to the reality inside classrooms.

Since 1965, Fayette County schools have been operating under a desegregation order. Some worry that without court oversight, the system will resegregate.

In total, the winning candidates raised $63,500 and spent $36,600 in the election.

Students at a Washington Heights elementary school were frustrated with Eric Adams’ school food cuts. But their advocacy had a bigger impact than bringing back their favorite chicken dish.

Proposed high school diplomas for the class of 2029 will place a greater emphasis on work experience, which some educators say will push students to neglect academic opportunities.

The goal is for students and teachers to develop a richer understanding of Memphis’ pivotal role in American history, at a time when discussions of race are constrained by state law.